The big day is fast approaching, and your little one will soon be officially in school. This is a big step for every family at any time, but in 2020 back-to-school may have some added emotions. As kids are all unique, each one will adjust and assimilate at a different pace and in their own way. With the pandemic, some readers may not be sending their kids back to school, and many schools will have varying guidelines. Every school culture is it's own, and we can't know what the situation is where your child goes (or would go) to school, so the following are helpful ideas to transition into school, but as always we encourage you to do what's best for your family.
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You can do this by bringing it up in casual conversation, always keeping things light. Talk about other kids they know who go to school, or what school they attend. Keep school on your lips in a light way. As kids always love stories from their parents' childhoods, remember back to when you were first in school and tell your child what you loved the most. Buy a book or two that involves the main character going to school, if you don’t yet own any. Familiarize yourself with your school's safety guidelines regarding Coronavirus, and discuss them regularly with your child so there are no surprises. Lastly, walk by their school as often as possible so they are familiar with the building and going there from your home. It will make the first day much less intimidating.
Kids comprehend their surroundings internally and often express their thoughts through play. Watch and see what tones and story lines they come up with when they are playing school. If your child demonstrates any anxiety or negativity while playing, that's insight into their worries. Your child may not mention these concerns verbally, but ask leading questions and be attentive during imaginative play for a hint at where they are at. Playing school together will also help your child look forward to school, especially with some plot help from mom and dad. Remind them of the kind teachers and new toys, books, and friends waiting for them.
Involve Your Child in Preparations
It’s easier to buy most of your things online once the kids are in bed, right? Especially during the pandemic, online is certainly easiest, but your child can still join you. By involving your child in the back-to-school shopping, whether it's a new backpack or a few new staples for Fall, they'll begin mentally and emotionally readying themselves. Start brainstorming ideas for lunches and snacks too, and let your child be involved in meal prep.
Once School Begins...
The transition isn’t over once they actually start school – it’s just beginning. Kindergarten teachers understand the whole month of September to be a transition for the child and they will often be extremely laid back with the children the first month. October is often the month where teachers tighten up on rules and expectations, as the kids have had time to adjust to the new environment. This means for the whole month of September, your child should be gradually easing in to the new way of life at school. You can help them by asking pointed questions at the end of the day and then again a few hours later. Right after school you’ll get passion and a fresh memory, but they’re also usually really tired and hungry. Once they’re in the their comfort zone at home, they may be more reflective and less emotional. Avoid general questions like “how was your day”, which will almost never yield more than a simple “fine” in response. Instead, try, “did anything happen today that scared you?” or “what happened today to make you laugh?”
Starting school is a giant leap for our little ones, and it’s bound to be met with an array of feelings. As the adults in the situation, it's on us to be even tempered, positive, and light-hearted about the transition, but never forget empathy, too. It is scary and hard being in a new place with a room full of strangers, so don’t let your child feel alone in those emotions. Also, as hard as it can be, try to keep it together on their first day of school! Save the tears for once you’re home or at work, and instead let them see your happy encouraging face as you send them off.
We wish you and your children a happy and healthy back-to-school season!