Apple Montessori Blog
How to Transition Your Child to School (5 Tips for Success!)
Dropping your child off for their first day of school can be as emotional for the parents as it is for the children!
Beginning school is a big transition. Whether your child is 18 months old or 5 years old, this is a sign that your child is growing up and they will have their own unique experiences in the world without you by their side. Starting school is also an exciting step toward growth, independence, and learning. Over her years of experience in classrooms, our senior director, Ms. Nicole Maupai has gained some helpful insights that can make your child’s transition to school easier:
1. Prepare Your Child Ahead of Time
Get your child comfortable with the idea of going to school by visiting the school itself with your child, Ms. Maupai says. In most cases, we are able to accommodate a visit while still meeting our safety and security policies.
We also like to have each child have a meet and greet with their classroom teacher. This visit serves several purposes, including helping the child get to know their teacher. Plus, children can observe their parents and teacher interacting in a positive and calm manner. Ms. Maupai explains the importance of children viewing these interactions, “Seeing their most trusted adult interact with their new teacher allows the children to make the connection that they can also trust this person. Having parents and teachers interact positively helps the children feel more relaxed and adjust in a more timely fashion.”
Here are some other tips for preparing your child for attending school:
- Drive by the school and point it out so that your child recognizes it.
- A few weeks before starting school, adjust your schedule to be the same as what will happen at school. Get up at the same time, use the same approximate snack and nap times, etc.
- Talk about school in a positive way. If parents are excited, it can help the child feel excited as well.
- Once your child has started attending school, look at the daily report which is sent home. It will help you start conversations with your child and show your child you and the school are working together to help them learn.
2. Set Reasonable Expectations
Unfortunately, starting school for the first time isn’t always easy. Some crying and fussing are to be expected and are signs of a completely normal reaction. Ms. Maupai explains, “It takes about two to four weeks on average for children to get used to going to school.”
Getting used to school is different for each child. However, within about two weeks, children usually feel comfortable with their classroom, teachers, and have made friends. By this point, children are able to relax, look forward to school, and enjoy the activities and learning.
3. Say a Quick, Clear Goodbye
It can be tempting to wait until your child is distracted in the classroom and then sneak away without saying goodbye. However, this can lead to an emotional process when they realize you’ve gone. Instead, Ms. Maupai recommends that you “say a nice clear ‘I love you and goodbye’ and then walk away.”
Good-byes are usually the toughest part for any family starting in a new school because both the parents and the child may be upset. Separation anxiety is developmentally normal for preschool-aged children. Keeping the goodbye clear and concise with a lot of love allows the child to learn the routine much faster. Also, do your best to stay calm, as this shows your child that you are confident and happy to have them stay at school.
As always, each child and family dynamic is different so parents may have a unique plan that works for them. For example, if you already have a goodbye routine that works for daycare or babysitting situations, it may also work well for school. However, we have found through the many years working with children ages 2-5 that keeping the goodbye short and sweet leads to the quickest adjustment for most children.
4. Know Teachers Will Support Students
The transition to school can be emotional for families and children. So, it can be helpful to know what will happen if your child cries or becomes emotional during those first days in the classroom.
When children are upset, teachers provide comfort in a number of ways. First, they will make sure to soothe the child with calming words and a soft tone. We let the child know that their parents will be back after the day is done, that their parents love them, and they will have so much fun at school. During the Meet and Greet, the teacher will ask about the child’s favorite things. This helps teachers comfort the child during the first few days by providing opportunities for redirection. For example, children might be able to play with items that are their favorite color, complete a coloring page of their favorite character or animal, or listen to their favorite song. The teacher and classroom staff work hard to build a relationship with the child by staying close and showing the child they can be trusted.
5. Use the Normal Schedule from the Start
A five full-day schedule has the easiest and fastest transition to school because they have the most exposure and experience with the routine, the teachers, and the materials. It’s best to use the same schedule you plan to use from the start. Consistency allows the children to adapt faster while changing schedules like leaving early or not attending days consistently can lead to confusion and a longer transition time. For example, if you start with half-days, but want your child to stay for a full day, it can make your child upset that you don’t come at lunchtime because they expect to see you then.
It’s also best if you can use a similar schedule to the school schedule at home on weekends or days off. Keeping things like nap and snack times consistent allows the child to feel more comfortable and adjust faster to their new school.
We know starting a new school is always a little nerve-wracking, for both families and children. Yet, if you approach it as a new adventure where they will make new friends and learn new things, it can help children be excited about attending school.
Remember, families and educators, are a team working together to provide consistent care and education for each child. Starting school with a team mentality, showing your child that you are excited for them, and demonstrating that you trust their teacher will help them to feel the same!
We can’t wait to welcome you and your little one into the Apple Montessori School family.