A frequent question I’ve been asked is how to help children with the transition back to school. Since school started, and many folks have been sharing their struggles with the morning meltdowns, I’m going to share some ideas here. I want to start off by saying meltdowns usually happen during periods of transition.
When it comes to transitions there is a fear of the unknown. Children might be worried about connecting with their teacher, meeting new friends, or even what their new school routine will be.
A helpful thing to support their transition is something called front loading. Front loading is a way to prepare children for what they’re about to experience and can be extremely helpful for children exhibiting feelings of worry.
An example of this would be having a conversation regarding what the following day or week will look like. Use as much detail as you’d like keeping it developmentally appropriate for your child. You can also add the things they’ll be doing at school. This is why they have meet the teacher nights! It helps the children adjust to their new teacher and school.
For many children, visuals are extremely helpful reminders. I’ve had parents create visual schedules that have pictures of breakfast, a toothbrush, and a car to represent each step in the routine. This empowers children to know what’s coming next. It also gives them a tool to look at when you’re not around. A conversation will need to happen frequently until your child is comfortable and builds trust in the routine. It may feel like you are constantly repeating yourself (because you are!). This is solidifying the routine and creating calmness in your child’s brain. You are rewiring your child’s brain to feel calm and peace about their routine opposed to worry.
A conversation with your 4 year old might sound something like this:
Mom: “Tomorrow, after you wake up we’re going to eat breakfast, brush your teeth, get dressed and then get in the car to drive to school.”
Child: “And see Mrs. Green?”
Mom: “Yes, and see Mrs. Green. When we drive up to your school, she’s going to be there to get you out of the car.”
Child: “And then we’re going to have our morning meeting! I sit next to Abby in morning meeting.”
Mom: “That’s right. You will have your morning meeting and sit next to Abby!”
This is extremely important for children that don’t have the same schedule every day of the week. Let’s say they have preschool twice a week and are home the other three days. It’s important to let them know the schedule for the following day. This is when visual schedules are extremely helpful to remind them “Tomorrow is a school day!” or “Tomorrow is a home day!” This should start early because it gets you both in the habit of planning the day ahead.
Remember to give both you and your child a grace period in learning this new skill. With anything parenting, you probably already know that very little changes overnight. Extend grace to this process and remember this is a process. You are both learning.
Try this out with your children and let me know how it goes! I want to hear your stories !!