The more parents can anticipate and prepare their children for these changes, the smoother the transitions are likely to be, according to LSU AgCenter family and child development expert Linda Robinson.
“Keep calm,” Robinson advised, adding it is normal for parents and children to become anxious as the school year approaches.
Prepare your child for the new environment by talking about what it is like and what your child will be doing during the day, she said. Keep these talks casual, however, so your child does not become overly anxious or overwhelmed.
Robinson offers these suggestions for preparing for kindergarten:
—Go for a visit. Arrange for a time to visit the school with your child so he or she will be more familiar with the new school before the first day. This visit is also a time for you to become more familiar with your child’s new routine and get answers to any questions you may have concerning your child’s adjustment.
—Meet other preschoolers. If possible, try to arrange a time before the first day for your child to meet and play with a couple of the children who will be in his or her class. The teachers may be able to connect you to the parents of children who live close to you.
—Get into a routine. In the weeks before the first day of school, try to establish a routine similar to the one your child will have once school starts, including times for waking, napping and going to bed at night.
—Use books to prepare. Read some children’s books with your child about the first day of school, and listen for concerns or questions your child may have.
Robinson recommends the following books and suggests checking with a librarian for others:
—“The Kissing Hand” by Audrye Penn describes a touching ritual a mother raccoon shares with her child to comfort him when he misses her at school.
—“Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff describes the colorful, whimsical preparations a kindergarten teacher makes for her class as well as the different ways her students get ready for the first day of kindergarten.
—“Welcome to Kindergarten” by Ann Rockwell is a reassuring book describing how a visit to his new kindergarten class helps a young boy feel more at ease for the start of school.
—“First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg explores some of the anxieties children have about school, but it also helps chil-dren understand that grownups – even teachers — can be anxious, too.
—“Wemberly Worried” by Kevin Henkes covers a wider range of things that children may worry about, including the first day of school.
“Practice saying goodbye,” Robinson said. “Saying goodbye to one another on the first day of school can be especially difficult for children and parents. It may help to come up with a special ritual, such as a certain phrase or touch, to help your child when he or she is missing you, as happens in ‘The Kissing Hand’ book
“Be sure to say goodbye to your child before separating on the first day.
Robinson cautioned that slipping out of the room when your child is distracted may increase his or her anxiety.
“Give it time,” she said. “All children are different, but most children adjust well with a little time. It is normal for children to have mixed feelings for the first few days.”
Robinson reminds parents to listen to their children’s feelings and reassure them that it is OK to feel that way.
“If you think your child may be having difficulty adjusting to school, talk with the teacher about your concerns,” she said. “The more you and your child’s teacher communicate and work together, the more likely your child is to adjust well.”