Well, here we are again. The end of another summer is in sight, and if you have a child getting ready for preschool, pre-k or mother’s day out then you know it’s also time to start preparing ourselves and our little ones for the transition. While it’s important to know that children are wired to handle some stress, a little extra support from you can go a long way in smoothing this transition. Here are a few ideas for easing back into the classroom:
Start readjusting their schedule. If your kids have gotten off the school schedule and will need to be up earlier in the morning, need to go longer in the day without a nap, or will eat lunch later than usual, start to make those adjustments now. Get to moving that schedule around so that the changes don’t upset their internal clock.
Read about school. Get to the library and find some books about going to school and being away from mom. A couple that come to mind are Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
Create a picture schedule. Once you know the schedule that the class will follow, sit with your child and create a picture schedule. It’s simple, really. Draw a few squares on paper and draw a simple picture to represent what your child will do as he moves through his day. Ex: a swing for playground time, a book for story time, music notes for music time, etc…You get the picture, right? You can use this as a tool to tell your child what the class will do throughout the day.
Create a gift for the teacher. Think simple and thoughtful and something he can do without much adult help (a card, pipe cleaner flowers, bookmark etc.) Encourage your child to give it to his teacher at meet the teacher/open house. Use this time as an opportunity to talk with him about how important his teacher is and what he will learn from him/her.
Schedule a play date. If you are returning to school reach out to another family that will be in your child’s class and book a play-date. You could try meeting at the school’s playground or have a picnic there. Just seeing the building and playground may help remind your child of the good times he’s had and will have there.
Play school. If your child loves pretend play then gather some stuffed animals or dolls and create a classroom. This a great time for your child to remember what school is like and you can reinforce certain aspects, such as: sitting together at circle time to hear a story or sing, raising your hand, being polite etc. Take turns being the teacher. If one of those stuffed animals should have a hard time separating from his mom or dad talk through it with him and let your child hear you reassure Teddy that his parent will be back.
Countdown the days together to get your kiddo excited! About a week out create a countdown calendar. I’m sure you could find some very cute examples on Pinterest but something simple will do the trick. Help your child mark the days off as school moves closer. A visual support like a calendar will help your child understand when this event will take place.
And lastly, be mindful of your child’s temperament and don’t go overboard trying to prepare them for school. This is especially true if your child tends to be more anxious to begin with. Talking TOO much about a topic can backfire and end up making him more anxious in the long run. Try asking if he has any questions about starting back to school and answer them honestly, and don’t worry about trying to hype up back-to-school for your kids if you feel it is going to put too much pressure on them. Remember, this is your child’s experience to interpret, so give factual information about what you KNOW about the new classroom or school. “You will get to play outside twice a day.” “You will have lunch with your classmates.”
Getting back to school can be fun and exciting for everyone if we take a little time to prepare our kids for the upcoming change. Remind yourself, too, that even exciting change can be stressful for everyone involved, not just the kids! Be sure to give your kids extra hugs and special time during this transition and before you know it you’ll be reading about things to do with your kids next summer! Here’s to a great school year.