by Anna Hoban, AM (MSW Equivalent), Graduate Intern
So, it is the end of the academic year, and your child is preparing for their preschool graduation. You are so proud of them for all their accomplishments: learning the alphabet, counting to 20, and making so many friends.
Then, it hits you. Your child will be going off to kindergarten soon, or even first grade. During a time of celebration and excitement, you may be feeling some stress for the future. You may be asking yourself, “Is my child prepared for this change?” Or perhaps, the question is: “Am I prepared for this change?”
If these questions or worries resonate with you as a parent or guardian, have no fear! We have some recommendations for best transitioning yourself—and your child—out of preschool and onto their next academic adventure.
Below are some strategies recommended by Harvard Medical School speech pathologist, Anne Desmore:
Talk about the new school
Dr. Desmore suggests: “Talk about the transition to your child in a positive way and try not to let your anxiety about the change show too much.” This can be done through the language used at Tuesday’s Child, such as praise. For example, if your child mentions something they are excited about for their new school, a phrase like “you are doing a great job becoming a kindergartener” could help them feel more confident in the transition.
Normalizing conversations about the things your child is worried about, specifically the transition to kindergarten, while you are at home can greatly benefit your child. Psychologist Sara Rimm-Kaufman (2000) writes, “there are links among the contexts—home, school, peers, and neighborhood—that play a role in this important period of a child’s school career.” These indirect links, such as conversations within the home, can aid in your transition to a new school.
Imagine what school will be like
“With your child, write a story about his or her first day at kindergarten (with your child as the main character!) Include logistics, feelings, etc” (Desmore, 2020). One of the topics taught during social-emotional learning in the TC Scholars classroom is imagination and how to use it.
This is a great opportunity to amplify your child’s imagination while also having them adjust to the fact that something new is coming. This story can also include drawing, painting, or acting out what they expect to see and feel on their first day.
Meet new classmates
“See if you can find out some of your child’s new classmates, and set up a play date” (Desmore, 2020). Playdates are a bit more difficult to schedule these days considering the pandemic, but try to reach out to your child’s future classmates and schedule a time for them to meet. This can be outside at a park, or even via Zoom. Not only will this help your child get adjusted to the new kiddos in their new school, but it will also allow you to learn the names of your child’s future friends and their parents.
To further, reaching out to parents and guardians in itself has positive benefits to your child’s kindergarten experience. According to the Indirect Effects Model, “Parent’s prosocial behavior predicts children’s successful peer contacts in kindergarten,” which, “in turn children with successful peer relationships are more likely to benefit academically” (Kaufman, 2000).
If you are worried about the logistics of beginning kindergarten or first grade, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (n.d) has some suggestions for you as well:
- Label! If you have more than one child to look after, this is especially helpful. Before the first day of school, label your child’s lunchbox, jackets, and backpack. According to the NAEYC, labeling will not only help your child keep track of their things while they are away at school, but it will also lessen stress on you in the mornings while you get their things together.
- Got allergies? Send a note to the school’s nurse before the first day to ensure that you and your child do not have to endure a peanut scare. This will give time for teachers to check their classrooms for any potential allergens, as well.
- Start a routine early. A few days or weeks before the first day of school, wake up your child as if they are getting ready for school. This will help them get comfortable with the routine of going to school.
Any transition can be tough, especially on young ones. The change from preschool to kindergarten is something many families struggle with, so you are not alone! These strategies and tactics, along with the practices already utilized at Tuesday’s Child, can aid in making the transition a bit more smooth for you and your child.
AM (MSW Equivalent) Candidate, University of Chicago, 2022
B.A., Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2020
Behavioral Intervention Graduate Intern, Tuesday’s Child
Densmore, A. (2020, June 9). 12 ways to help a child make the transition to kindergarten. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/12-ways-to-help-a-child-make-the-transition-to-kindergarten-201308166611.
Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Pianta, R. C. (2000). An ecological perspective on the transition to kindergarten: A theoretical framework to guide empirical research. Journal of Applied developmental psychology, 21(5), 491-511.
Strasser, J. (n.d.). Transitioning to Kindergarten. NAEYC. https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/transitioning-to-kindergarten.