5 Tips for Helping Kids Transition to a New School

going to school

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As a brand ambassador for Better Beginnings, I have been compensated for this post, but all thoughts are my own.

The girl stayed home with me for almost the first two years of her life, and she was a pretty super clingy little one. That could be because she barely ever saw people outside of her family for the first seven months of her life, when we were barely leaving the house because she was a preemie. Or it could just be her personality.

Whatever the reason, she would cry pretty much all the time she wasn’t around me. So I was really worried about her starting to go to preschool, because I expected that transition to be awful.

It actually went amazingly well, and when she changed schools over the summer that went really well, too.

I am not entirely sure how that happened, but I have some ideas that might help if your little one is super attached and needs to start going to school (or mom’s day out, or whatever).

Let Them Know

It’s important for your child’s caregivers to know if you’re worried that the transition is going to be hard for your child. They know what to do because they’ve dealt with anxious kids for years. They can also help you with a goodbye ritual or other tricks that might help if it does turn out to be a problem.

going to school
The girl is usually happy to go to school, especially when she has a friend.

Talk to Your Child

I have talked before about how we talk to the girl a lot, and I think that was really important when she started and then changed schools. We talked about what would happen at school, how fun it would be, that it would be a good adventure, that there were nice people and new friends there.

It’s important to have a good attitude about whatever change is happening, so they’ll be excited about it, too.

Read About It

It seems like every kids book series out there has a book about going to school. We have Splat the Cat, which is about his first day at Cat School, and The Berenstain Bears Back to School, in which Sister Bear goes to kindergarten.

There are great lists of books about going to school at About.com Children’s Books and at No Time for Flash Cards. Check some of these out from your local library if you have a transition coming up, and read and talk about them with your child.

You can also watch school related television shows. “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” has a show about the first day of school and missing your parents when you’re at school, and a lot of the programs show the “children” interacting at school.

Let Them Try it First

Both times she started school in a new place we were able to have her go there and explore a little before she was a full-time student. When she first started school she went for a half day during the week before she started. When she changed schools we went to her new school one day after school and she got to meet her teacher and play with some of her classmates (she was so happy she didn’t want to leave until almost the last one of them was picked up!).

Knowing what the classroom looks like, what toys are there, who is there and a little of what to expect can make a big difference for calming anxiety and smoothing transitions.
ways to help a clingy child transition to school

Have a Routine

It’s important, especially in the beginning, for your child to know what to expect in terms of when you go to school, what happens when and when you pick them up. Even if they can’t tell time yet they get a sense of how the routine works, so try to get to school and pick them up around the same time each day.

Having a routine for saying goodbye and hello can be helpful, too. Decide on a number of hugs and kisses, a kiss to the hand or the forehead or whatever special thing you might like to do.

Get down on their level, be excited about them having a great day when you leave and be glad to see them when you get back.

Arkansas Better Beginnings has some tips on helping your child say goodbye (PDF format). Check out their resource library for all sorts of good advice on a variety of parenting issues.

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  1. I love using books to help my kids when they’re going through tough situations. It seems to make it easier for them to understand and helps them process and express their feelings better.

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