It seems like young children are making transitions all the time. First they ease into a new program and learn how to switch from one activity to another throughout the day. They get used to leaving their families and spending time in a group. They acquire skills that propel them to higher and higher levels of learning. And soon they will leave for the next classroom or program.
It is a good thing that young children are flexible learners, because all those transitions might be overwhelming for us as adults. Can you imagine changing your job setting every year? Meeting new co-workers and learning new skills every day could be nerve-wracking. The good news is that children handle transitions a good deal better than we often give them credit for — and certainly better than adults. Here are some tips to guide them in the transition into “big-kid” school:
Do as Teacher Does
Consider what teachers do to prepare children for the next year. Then try similar techniques at home. Often the greatest fear children have is of the unknown, so your child's teacher will talk to him about what to expect next year, especially if he will be moving to a new classroom or school building. Visits are helpful so your child has a chance to visualize where he is going instead of making up pictures in his head. Something as simple as knowing where the bathroom is located can help him feel more relaxed about the transition. Often the move from preschool to kindergarten is most monumental. There are many good books on this subject.
Share and Share Alike
As you well know, children often make a close bond with their preschool teacher. The idea of leaving him can feel very sad. Teachers often deal with this by expressing their own feelings. They acknowledge the special connections they've made with each child and express both the sadness of seeing them go and the joy of knowing they are moving on to a great new class. By expressing their feelings, they allow children to express their own. You can do it too. Share what you liked about the teacher this year and invite your child to share too. Write down her thoughts so that she can make a card or picture as a gift for the teacher. Sometimes just taking a positive action like this can help her process her feelings.
Once your child has had time to think about leaving this year's class, he's ready to imagine next year. Teachers often ask children to discuss their wishes and dreams for next year . . . no matter how wild they are! Ask your child what he would like to see in the class. There are no wrong answers here. One class of preschoolers, when asked what they hoped to see in their new school, said they wished there would be a swimming pool in each classroom and a pony in the playground. Now that is a great kindergarten!