Parents play a crucial role in helping their children transition into school. The following strategies may assist children in feeling secure in their school environment.
- Visit school ahead of time with your child. If your child's school does not already plan for a visitation day, arrange for a brief visit prior to the start of school so your child will have an idea of what his or her classroom is like. This helps alleviate much of the anxiety that children feel about going to a strange place.
- Ease your child into the new schedule. Many families have a more relaxed bedtime and wake-up schedule over the summer. A week before school starts, begin to move bedtime up so that your child is not tired and cranky the first few days of school.
- Help your child get settled before you leave. Some parents stay long enough to read a story or work a puzzle with their child before saying good-bye.
- Give clear information to your child about how long you can stay, and then stick to it. For example, a parent might say, "We can read one book together, and then it will be time for me to leave."
- When your child seems settled, leave. Sometimes parents feel ambivalent about separating from their child, and children quickly pick up on these feelings.
- Tell your child good-bye before you leave, even if you know your child will start crying. It's better to be honest than to sneak out. When children look around and suddenly notice that their parent is gone, than can become very frightened or feel that their parent can't be trusted. Saying good-bye to your child also gives you a chance to reiterate when you'll return.
- If your child is having trouble separating, work out a plan with the teacher. You might develop a way to signal the teacher when you're ready to leave so she can move in and help.
- Leave a note for your child. Children often feel reassured to have a note from their parent read to them.The note might read, "I'll be back after lunch. I want to hear all about the finger paint."
- Check ahead of time about classroom activities. Then you can prepare your child for each day's events. After you pick your child up, you can ask about specific activities. This usually elicits a much better response than, "What did you do at school today?" - to which many children answer, "Nothing."
- Be on time for pick-up. It can be frightening for children if their parent doesn't show up when they say they will.