As we approach the end of summer and enter a new school year, transitions are inevitable. We have children moving from toddler classes to the primary program as well as children taking a big leap in leaving our school for the next step of their education. (We also have staff children leaving for the first year of college!)
A few strategies as you navigate a new environment with your child:
Keep your discussions with your child positive. Let him express his feelings about the move and acknowledge how he feels. Find key points that will reassure him…he will see old friends, he will meet new friends, he will get to try new works, etc. Encourage him often about the positive aspects of a new class and looking ahead. Try to refrain from comparing the new class, teacher or friends to the old class.
Throughout the adjustment period, remain as consistent as possible at home. Keep all routines the same (with the possibility of an earlier bedtime), including your morning routine. The consistency at home will provide the extra stability that your child craves during the adjustment to a new routine at school.
ASK THE TEACHER
If there is a part of the new class that the child is “complaining” about, reach out to the teacher for clarity. If he says “no one will play with me,” the teacher can either 1) clarify what that really means 2) offer suggestions on what you can say to your child or 3) be more aware of your child’s needs. This transitional time is the perfect opportunity to create a strong partnership with the teacher.
In an ideal world, the change would go without a hitch…but bumps are inevitable. You can expect them along the way, but be cautious to not project onto your child. You may see your child more hesitant at drop off, more emotional at home, or show regression with certain behaviors including toileting, aggression, or nightmares. Refer to the 3 points above on how to weather those bumps.
Your child may be in awe of the newness of the environment and all that goes with it for the first few days. But then the reality of this different setting may settle in and any of the bumps mentioned above can show up after this honeymoon phase (in week 2). Again, staying positive, consistent and working with the teacher will help move your child along.
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
This is a new time for yourself as well as for your child. You have created a bond with your child’s teacher and know the ins and outs of the previous classroom. You are entering unknown territory and will need to learn the aspects of the teacher’s style and personality, the materials, routines and structure of the new classroom. As mentioned, reach out to the teacher to find out more about these unknowns and to build that partnership with her.
Not only are you entering this unfamiliar place, but you also are facing the reality that your child is growing up. It is a happy and sad experience at the same time. Those bumps that your child faces, you may face also…you may be more emotional, hesitant at the door or short with others. Give yourself the opportunity to feel those emotions and talk with your partner or friends about how you feel, go for a walk, have some quiet time in the evening, or sip a glass of wine.
Dr Montessori, so aptly put the need for change and growth….“The development of the individual can be described as a succession of new births at consecutively higher levels”.
Embrace and enjoy this new birth of your child!