The transition from summer back to preschool can bring anxiety for the whole family, especially if a child is attending school for the first time or switching to a new school. As part of kidü’s commitment to raising #HappyParents, we’re sharing these 3 easy steps you can take right now to help ease the change in routine for you and your child.
Step 1: Make School Familiar
Early childhood education expert Valerie Dubnoff, is a co-lead teacher at a suburban Philadelphia preschool and the mother of three. According to Dubnoff, parents have lots of options available to help children with the change of routines. She says, “Familiarity is the key to helping them feel comfortable in a new or changed environment.” Here are some of Dubnoff’s recommendations:
If the child is going to school for the first time, ask the principal for the names of families with children who will be in your child’s class. Try to get together with another child before the start of the school year. Also, drive by the school, get out and look at the playground. If possible, visit the classroom where your child will be. Then talk about when you went to preschool and how much fun you had. Says Dubnoff, “The more a child is familiar with the school before actually going the easier the transition is likely to be.”
If your child is switching to a new school, find out the name of your child’s teacher and the name of the class (e.g. Dolphins, Starfish, Turtles). If possible, play on the playground together. Then have a discussion about the similarities and differences between the old school and the new one. “Together with your child you can look through any art work you’ve saved from the prior year. This gets kids thinking about how much they enjoy school and helps generate feelings of excitement about returning.”
If the child is returning to the same school, it is still worthwhile to drive by before classes resume. Ask your son or daughter to think back on the good times with questions such as, “Do you remember when you made a mudpie with your friend under that slide?” or “Look at the front door! I remember the very first time you went through that door. You made so many nice friends in that building last year.”
Step 2: Brush Up on Social Skills
It can be a great idea to help children brush up on social skills over the summer. After all, even big people can use a refresher course from time to time.
A big part of cooperation is communication. Your child’s language and listening skills are continuing to develop rapidly. While toddlers may be working on sharing and using words to express feelings, older preschoolers are beginning to rely on nonverbal communication skills as they develop their friendships. Jole Lehr-Fizer, Owner of Spectrum Social and Recreation Services LLC, explains that nonverbal communication skills include:
Learning to Empathize. This is the ability to think about other people’s thoughts and feelings as well as your own. Between the ages of 4 and 7, children will consider other people’s likes and dislikes and remember those preferences. For example, your child might know and remember that his friend likes red crayons.
Gauging Distance. This skill is about your child’s ability to use appropriate body language in a group setting. Rather than sitting 10 feet away from a game, your child can stand nearby to show he wants to play. Hovering around a group waiting for an invitation is an age-appropriate skill, while shoving people out of the way to join in is not. This skill also includes following others in the group physically.
Gesturing. Reading people’s gestures. especially their arm and hand movements, is an important nonverbal communication skill. Watch your child to see if he knows what it means when you shrug or stand with your hands on your hips.
Reading Facial Expressions. Facial expression convey emotions, a connection that your child is still figuring out.
Making Eye Contact. This is the ability to use nonverbal communication to follow along with the group. Our eyes point to what we are thinking about. Does your child watch the person who is speaking and know when it’s his turn to do or say something?
The free kidü course called Sensational Social Skills for Preschoolers contains lots of great ideas for helping kids learn to cooperate and make friends.
Step 3: Set the Sleep Routine
If your child is going to have an earlier bedtime once school starts, consider gradually easing toward the school-year bedtime a week or two before you actually need to do so. For example, suppose you plan to turn out your child’s light at 7pm once school starts, but right now, she has had a summer bedtime of 8:30pm. You could turn your child’s light out at 8:15pm 7 days before begins and 8:00pm 6 days before. This will increase the chances that your child will more easily adapt to the school year routine once the big day arrives.
And if your kiddo has trouble sleeping while it’s still light outside, consider investing in room-darkening shades or curtains.
Of course, even parents can get the jitters before the first day of school. If the whole family is feeling restless and sleep is eluding you, why not try a little guided sleep meditation for kids and parents?