How to Help Children Adapt to a New School Environment
Transitioning to a new environment for children is not easy. Leaving a familiar place and losing the comfort of parents, home or friends can be hard. It brings social and emotional challenges that schools and parents must be aware of. As Blomberg (N.D.) states, “moving is an emotional experience, and how the transition is handled has an enormous impact on a child’s academic performance”. Pogosyan (2016) concurs, arguing that “the external upheaval surrounding transitions is often mirrored in us internally, through a kaleidoscope of emotions”.
Transition also means separation, for young children they do not know that the separation is temporary, they often have very strong feelings, or "separation anxiety." These feelings of sadness, anger, or fear during separations are the result of changes around the child where patterns or people he or she has become accustomed to are altered. To avoid the separation anxiety especially of children who are about to start going to school, the parents needs to prepare their children before entering the new environment. Based on Sesame School House here are a few guidelines for the parents, which will help them prepare their children for this huge transition in their lives
Prepare a routine– Routine brings responsibility and structure in a person’s life. Especially for children, it removes their fear of uncertainty and gives them the feeling of being in control. It also ensures that the child is active and healthy which makes them more open to learning.
Fix their bed times– Waking up early morning, at a fixed time will help your child develop a routine and this will give them a sense of reassurance. It will also give more time to the parent to talk and connect with the child before they start rushing through their daily chores. Teach the child to brush their teeth, make their bed and have breakfast. It will help them get organized which is the pre-requisite of going to preschool.
Don’t panic- Sending the child to preschool can bring some sense of panic in some parents. The result is they start preparing months in advance. While all this preparation can help the parents feel in control it can overwhelm the little child. Parents should introduce “preschool” just two weeks before their first class in a casual and exciting manner. Give them an idea of the fun activities that they will be doing there which will give them something to look forward to.
Teach them without teaching– With just little bits of effort, a lot can be taught to the kids and, that too, in a fun manner. Talk to children and encourage them to observe the world around them. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and why it is important to be kind and helpful to people around them.
Make them independent- Children who are independent are more likely to adjust better in preschool. Teach children to clear their tables, clean up the mess they create and help you with other daily chores. This will teach them to be independent and helpful.
Play peek-a-book– Play peek-a-boo with your child. Vanish for a few minutes and then reappear, saying “mommy is back”. It will reassure the child that whenever mommy goes, she will come back. Do this every time you are going to be away from your kid. It will reduce the separation anxiety that a child may go through when he goes to school.
Introduce “preschool”– Before the actual session starts, take your child to the preschool once or twice. Let him get accustomed to the environment, teachers and the surroundings. If not during school hours, you can take them in the evening or weekends. Explain to them how much fun it is in the school and how they will be getting a chance to make friends, play and listen to stories.
Recognize separation anxiety- Going to a preschool and being alone can make the child anxious for the first few weeks. It’s the parent’s job to be positive and strong during this time and reassure the child when they are feeling nervous or are crying. Tell them you will be back to pick them up in the afternoon. Keep the byes short as the longer the goodbye the more difficult it is going to be for the child to leave. Just remember it happens with every child and parent and as the time progresses, goodbyes are going to be smoother.
For a smooth transition of a child from home to a preschool, the parents and the teachers have to work in union. The teachers have to ensure the child feels safe and have fun while leaning. It will keep them motivated and would enjoy going to school. Following the above mentioned tips will ensure your child is prepared emotionally to start his/her preschool.
Blomberg, J. (N.D.) Helping Students Transition Well: What Can Teachers and Schools Do?, Acsi.org. Available at: https://www.acsi.org/resources/cse/cse-magazine/helping-students-transition-well-what-can-teachers-and-schools-do-93
Pogosyan, M. (2016) Helping Children Through Transitions, Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201609/helping-children-through-transitions