Even though it’s been more than a week for many students going back to school, the fact is that the transition doesn’t always only take a few days. Sometimes it can take weeks or months.
I know this from experience. While my daughter is having no issues being dropped off for JK, my son a number of years ago was a different story. There were some days that I left him at the teacher’s side with tears in his eyes. Other days were fine. Other days we both were crying.
This went on for weeks, and just when we thought we had a good routine, an extended weekend would happen and starting over was tricky.
But we did it. He did it. And we had many many successful days. I do have a few tricks that I’ve learned to help our little ones transition whether it’s the start of preschool or kindergarten.
1- Be excited for them – and show it!
It’s tough to do, but even though each year I’m all ‘DOWN WITH SCHOOL’, I try to only talk up the positive points in front of the kids. I don’t want my stresses or worries to be projected. When my son started school, I spoke to him about the excitement that would happen, not the worries I had.
It is ok to acknowledge what everyone is feeling. That you will miss each other, that these feelings are perfectly normal for the kiddos and for mom and dad and so on.
2- Talk about their day – but get some help
It’s easy to want to know every detail about their time at school but usually the kids answer with ‘it was good’. Or ‘we played’. My kids are most excited to talk about school on the drive home, so I pump as many questions as I can then, because once they are home they aren’t as forthcoming.
But asking leading questions helps. Instead of ‘how was your day?’, if you can ask ‘Which centre did you like best?’ or ‘I heard you went to the library, how was that?’ you might pull more responses, which will lead to positive conversations and hopefully more encouragement to go the following days.
To find out what is happening in the class you can often ask the teacher roughly what the week looks like (they would tell you on Tuesday is library day, Wednesday is gym time etc) or if your child is having a really hard transition, I’ve emailed or phoned teachers to get more specific day to day info to help guide my conversations.
The more we chatted about likes, dislikes, worries etc. The more we were able to help alleviate his concerns.
3- Try this, then that
I used to bring my son early in JK so he got play time. Then it just seemed to make the morning wait too long. His best days were the ones that he basically got there in time to line up. He had no time to worry about saying goodbye to me, or stress, so in he would go and the day was fine.
I also noticed that on days when it wasn’t his teacher’s turn to have duty, he had a harder time. When she was in the yard, he was happy to go to her, otherwise, he wasn’t sure what the plan was. I had to have a back up plan for those days, either waiting with him longer, or suggesting a new teacher he could find.
Another thing that worked was when his teacher saw us arrive for drop off, she would personally walk over and help to bring him into the yard. I appreciated that!
Keep trying different things to see what might help.
4- Find Out Some Names
My daughter describes kids in her class, if she doesn’t know their name, by their clothing. ‘I played with the boy in the red shirt’. That doesn’t help us drive conversation though, so when possible, remind them to get names or ask the teacher who they seem to be playing most with.
In my son’s case, his preschool transition was made easier thanks to the kindness of two other boys in his class who would welcome him in the morning and invite him to play.
In JK, I asked him who he seemed to enjoy playing with and once I had those couple of names, I encouraged him to go and see them first thing in the morning or find one of them at a centre which helped relax him. I also arranged play dates outside of school with kids he seemed to enjoy playing with most.
And finally a few tips for you, dear parent.
Don’t worry if you are the only one with the sad child at drop off. Or the only one waiting to watch them all go in, or the only one at home feeling sad about this time. I’ve been there.
It gets better and easier for everyone.
A quick tip? Keep busy these first few weeks. I was the worse when sitting at home in silence. I’ve been keeping busy with friends and errands and coffee dates. Once you find your new groove, and see how happy your child is, the transition will be easy as pie.
Remember that each child is different (as my own kids have shown me) and that sometimes, it just takes time. And chances are, once you leave at drop off they will really love school!