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Change can be challenging for chidren

I love fall. I have always been enamored by the coolness of September, new school supplies and how nature changes drastically. As our students have come back this fall, I’ve noticed their growth, both physical and social/emotional. Children who were such babies in Wee Explorers last year are carrying their own backpacks to class and the seasoned veterans of the school are writing their names and greeting me with a smile or a hug. While the start of the school year is a time of newness, don’t forget that children don’t differentiate between the exciting beginning of the school year and any other change. Transition or  any type of change can be challenging for children. They might seem excited by the concept of school, but the reality means daily separation and a new routine with people who aren’t yet familiar. This can cause anxiety in preschool children. That can look different for each child and could include:

  • Anger/crying/ tantrums
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Regression in potty training
  • Refusal to eat certain foods
  • Stomachaches/headaches
  • Clinginess

So what can you do to help ease your child’s anxiety? According to New York Time’s Hope Reeves of the September 2013 article 10 Ways to Ease Your Child’s Preschool Separation Anxiety (and Yours):

  • Never sneak out of the room. Your child won’t be happy when he figures out you’re gone. (I learned that teachers hate this tactic.)
  • Never make promises or bargains you can’t keep. Don’t say you’ll be sitting on the bench outside if you won’t.
  • Keep things stable. Don’t introduce any other new thing into the routine.
  • Expect regression. Your child might be great the first week and drag her heels the second, or she might be completely potty trained but start having accidents.
  • Don’t put words in her mouth. Don’t say, “I know you hate school.” Reflect instead: “I hear you saying you feel sad.”
  • Connect with old friends. Make a play date with a friend from last year.
  • Remind your child that he is an expert at mastering new places. Say something like, “Remember how afraid you were of the zoo? Now you love it!”
  • Introduce your child to the school and new teachers before the first day.
  • Take pictures of the front of the building, the teachers’ faces and the new cubby, and show him a few times before school starts.
  • Let her take a small transitional object to school. Maybe a note from you or a stuffed animal (but not an absolute favorite; ask teachers).
  • Most of all, shake, shake, shake off the guilt. Your child will stop crying a lot sooner than you think.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to trust that if your child is truly struggling, we will be in touch with you. Feel free to call anytime during the school day and  check in with the teacher to make sure all is well. If you need to set a time to talk about this important transition for you and your child, don’t hesitate to call administration or your child’s teacher. Everyone is willing to help this be a time of wonder and discovery and positive transition.

By Jen Filonowich

Executive Director

Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School

rwcns.org