First Days: Easing the Transition
Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
There is little doubt that I am more nervous about this than my kid. At least that is the way it appears. She seems ready for her new schooling adventure. And me? I am a wreck.
Are you ready for your little one's new adventure this fall? Are they heading off to preschool or childcare for the first time?
Whether heading to preschool, a new childcare center, or even introducing a new babysitter, change can be a challenge. For everyone.
Can you make this transition a bit easier? How can it be done?
Talk about it. Even infants benefit from a heads-up (even if they don't quite understand all the words, they will find comfort in your voice). When you do talk about it with your child, keep it simple and positive. Even if you're unsure, don't let on to your kiddo. Keep calm. Be reassuring. Be your child's cheerleader for change.
Don't wait until the last minute. Some surprises are good, but introducing your child to a new environment and new caregivers is not one of them. When possible, ease in to it. The best transitions are filled with baby steps. Before that first day when you will be away, make several visits to the new program. Stay and play with your child, but back off. After all, this will be THEIR space to be while you are gone. Help them make connections, but support their independence.
Don't run out on them. If anyone tells you to “sneak out,” when you drop your kiddo off, DON'T DO IT. Sneaking out feels like abandonment to a child – no matter how old they are. Even if they cry when you say good-bye, do it. Knowing that you have left is far better than worrying about where you are or if you are coming back.
Communicate your return and keep to your word. “I'll see you after naptime.” Young children don't tell time, but they easily do learn the flow of their day.
Establish routines and rituals. Whether it is one book, a hug and a kiss, or a special handshake (my little girl and I have a finger-to-finger power move – “Girl Power,” we shout), create a special good-bye. Yes, there still may be tears, but trust me, with consistency you will both transition easier.
Too many tears? If it doesn't get easier, re-evaluate. Start with the teachers and other program leadership (or your child's new caregiver). Seek tips and support from them. Try to find ways to observe your child without them seeing you present. And, if you've given it a chance, tried everything you can, don't be afraid to pull the plug and go a different route.
Wishing you (and ME!) a smooth transition during the earliest days of school fun!