At times change can be challenging for our young children, this includes moving from kindergarden into primary school, beginning a new school year with a new teacher and moving from school into intermediate.
It can challenge our children’s emotions, functional skills and at times cause anxiety. This can be understood even as adults when moving jobs or beginning a new job we too can feel anxious.
Children’s confidence and resilience in coping with change is supported mostly by their secure relationships around them, that help to foster the sense of safety in the change to come. These relationships include parents, therapists, friends, family and the school staff (teachers).
In my experience an important aspect of what helps our children cope with these changes, comes down to Preparation.
There are many ways to prepare your child and every child will be different as to what works, however there are some standard strategies which include:
Two to three weeks before school is due to start, begin talking to your child, saying in a few weeks you will be going to school. Talk them through what time they will wake up, how they will get ready for school in the morning, how they will get to school, and who will pick them up from school. This helps with expectations, knowing what it to come and feeling safety in how they will get to and from school.
Visit the school. If the school offers transition to school days take these up. But also visit the school as many times as you can before it starts, play on the playground, and point out the classroom if known.
Take photos of the toilets, school hall, office, classroom, drinking fountains, and playground.
Show your child the photos when they ask about school, when you talk about school and anytime you feel would help.
Create a visual book with the photos, with writing. Saying things like you will go to school, this is your teacher, this is the classroom you will be in, here is where you play at break times, here is the toilet, and here is where you eat lunch. This will help to reduce anxiety around new environments, and also to prepare them for what is to come.
Routine; begin to get the routine at home the same as it will be during school time, such as when they will wake up, eat breakfast, pack a bag, put shoes on, visit the school in the morning if possible, afternoon tea, dinner time, and getting ready for bed routine. Doing this as early as you can before school starts will help your child adjust to the routine and it not be as overwhelming when adding the change of going to school.
Support and encourage your child to like school, talk about their interests and that they can learn more about these at school, such as if they like dinosaur you could motivate them in speaking about science or history. If they enjoy reading or drawing talk about art classes etc.
Here is a useful website from Australia which has some great story templates you could create and read to your child to help with preparation https://www.ecia.org.au/Transition-to-School#226781-downloadable-resources
If you have any questions about these recommendations above please do not hesitate to ask.
If your child and family would like support in transitioning to school Connecting Together can support this, helping to make resources, helping to reduce anxiety, and helping your child cope with change.www.facebook.com/pg/Connecting-Together-1599431303464275/about/?ref=page_internal
Thank you for reading,
Poroporoaki hoki inaianei,
Melissa Walker-Tate (Occupational Therapist).
Connecting Together Ltd.