Often, we find that parents stress about how to soften the transition for their children into Kindergarten. This will happen more often with their first child, as they feel a little as though they are drifting into the unknown.
We can help put their minds at ease by providing practical, actionable, strategies for them to implement at home, as well as getting them as involved as possible early in the year, to ease their own separation anxiety.
There are three key areas in which we can work together to help ease their child into the Kindergarten year, while also getting them comfortable with the idea of leaving their children at big school (these tips are targeted at teachers collectively; in practice, it will be a partnership between their Preschool teacher, Kindergarten teacher and parents):
The transition is an important time for every member of a child’s family.
- It’s important to be considerate of the limitations that certain families experience; for example, single working parents might not be able to access ‘prior to school’ services during the day. How can you help to facilitate their involvement?
- It can be beneficial to talk to the families about the structure that best suits them.
- Encourage families to suggest content for the teaching program.
- Always give families plenty of time to plan ahead.
- Encourage families to participate in discussions relevant to their child’s education.
- Personally invite families to the transition to school program, to maximize attendance and make them feel welcome.
- Involve current Kindergarten parents, in order to facilitate knowledge-sharing and so they can put the new parents’ minds at ease.
Parents always enjoy being able to share experiences with their children at their introduction and orientation sessions, rather than simply be whisked away to a hall for an informational lecture.
- Allow the parents to remain with their children and join in the activities.
- Get the whole family involved in the school visit (and make sure they point out how amazing and exciting everything is).
- Arrange a tour of the school as a family unit (or for the kids, you might try turning it into a treasure hunt!)
- Host a welcome BBQ for new parents, as a welcoming deviation from the traditional, sterile, information session.
- Offer workshops to incoming parents, exploring the virtues of play, early literacy and numeracy activities.
- Allocate parents to looking after a group – give them responsibility for an activity (e.g. book covering)
- Provide a ‘starting school’ booklet to parents with information on the key areas and routines of the school, which will be of value on their child’s first day and as preparation in the lead-up to the new year.
- Consider implementing a ‘buddy system’ for incoming parents who need support from existing parents; this can be especially useful if parents are from a different language or cultural background.
- Get a profile of the child from the parents (for example, perhaps their child is artistic, has siblings, hates getting into trouble, etc.); this will help you to relate with the child, as well as better plan a suitable range of lessons and activities that will engage them in their learning.
Rehearsing for School as a Family:
Encouraging families to practice for the start of school is a really effective way of smoothing out the path to the first day for their child.
- Recommend that parents purchase the necessary ‘going to school’ items (e.g. lunch box, school bag, uniform if applicable) with their child present.
- Practice with their child the act of eating independently from their lunch box.
- Important that they encourage their child to ask for help when required, rather than expecting teachers to anticipate their needs.
- Invite incoming families to participate in after-school events in the year before entry (for example, carnivals and assemblies) to get used to the feel of being around the school and to meet parents.
- As much as possible, encourage them to talk with their child about the experiences they are having, including relating back their activities to core areas of learning, such as numbers, shapes and language.
- Encourage strengthening their child’s independence by expecting them to perform small tasks around the house, such as putting toys away, sorting socks and dressing themselves in the morning.
- You might consider preparing a transition book, containing pictures of their parents or siblings at school – it demonstrates to them that this is the next logical step in their process of growing up.
By working together as a team, we can certainly ease the stress of starting a new school year. The family has the largest role to play in setting the tone for their child; and they really want to do the right thing, so giving them some ideas and suggestions will make life a bit less stressful for everyone.