Making the Switch: Transitioning from Preschool to Kindergarten
Whether a child is in preschool, daycare or in homecare, the transition to kindergarten can be very exciting, but stressful for children, parents and educators. As adults, we feel stress and anxiety during transitional periods, such as starting a new job or moving to a new home or a different state. We are more equipped to handle such changes because of life experiences and clear expectations. A 5-year-old child does not have the life experience and understanding from which to draw; therefore, they are less equipped to deal with big changes. Although children are extremely resilient, teachers report that 48% of children struggle with this transition.
This time of year is the perfect time to visit the prospective school and kindergarten class with your child. Children love school and the idea of “growing up”. Talk it up! No matter how much your heart is breaking at the thought of your child starting school. Visiting the school and classroom gives you and your child an opportunity to become acquainted with the teacher and to explore the classroom. Speak with the teacher about your child’s strengths as well as any weaknesses you may be concerned about. Solicit ideas and suggestions to help aid improvement in the interim.
This leads to an early and beneficial partnership between teacher and parents—a partnership that should continue with each of your child’s educators throughout their academic life. Communication is key: communication between parent and child, between parents and teachers, and between parents and other school staff. The more parents are actively involved in a student’s academic life, the more success academically, socially, and emotionally the student will experience.
Another key principle to success is structure. Children benefit from structure. Keep with the same schedule as much as possible. Practice learning concepts from the classroom in the home, for example, read books, memorize rhymes, color pictures, and practice with scissors. You can also act out classroom routines such as raising his or her hand, getting in line, and going to the restroom. Plan to spend extra one-on-one time with your child during the first few weeks of kindergarten so that you can assess his or her progress.
Lastly, don’t over-react if the first few days are tough. Some children may have more separation anxiety than others, but the teacher is there to help. If your child cries when you drop them off, it is best to remain calm and keep positive. If you are relaying negativity, then so will your child. Don’t linger or keep coming back. Instead, reassure your child that he or she is okay and that you’ll be returning soon. In no time at all, your child will be excited to go to school and will plead to stay…”just a little longer.” I’ve seen it numerous times.
Letting our children go in new directions is so difficult, but it is within our power, for just a few short years, to help them make new experiences as positive as we can.
-Shanda Robertson:PreK Instructor