Back to school can be a challenging time for both children and their parents. It is very normal for children to feel more anxious, and as parents we need to work out the best way to support them through this transition period. There are a number of reasons for this anxiety, often based on a fear of the unknown. Perhaps the largest concern is about your child being separated from you, but other reasons may be due to shyness, worry about making new friends at school, uncertainty about what will be expected of them, or adapting to new schedules that they are not familiar with.
So, what handy tips from a Montessori perspective are there to help make this transition as smooth and painless as possible?
Encourage independence at home
Put your child in charge of doing things for themselves at home, for example clearing up after meals, choosing their own clothes or feeding themselves. Giving them these tasks will provide them an increased sense of confidence, self-reliance and competency, which will in turn prepare them better for school where they will be required to do more of these things.
Talk about school
Talk to your children about all the positive things they have to look forward to at school. Ask questions about anticipated teachers, classmates and activities. Share stories with them of things you remember being fun when you were at school. If they have concerns validate their feelings and let your child know that these feelings are perfectly normal. Keep a positive attitude, as your child will be picking up on your feelings and emotions about school.
Read about school
Read books to your child about school, including books in which their favourite characters go to school or that write about children going to their first day of school or not being around their parents. Reading can create discussion about school between you and your child and address any fears they may have.
Get the routine going early
Start getting back into a proper school time routine a week or two ahead of time, especially with proper and ordered schedules, mealtimes and bedtimes. Being prepared and not rushing at the last minute will help your children ease back into a good school routine. Involve your child in all the little preparations for school so that they get more excited about the idea of being at school.
Visit the school before it begins
If possible attend an orientation, spend time in the classroom or playground and meet or spend time with their teacher. You can even rehearse the drop off and saying goodbye to you in the hallway. Building familiarity through a visit will take away a lot of the unknown factors in a child’s mind.
Prepare for separation anxiety
Talk to your child ahead of them to let them know you will be leaving them at school for a few hours but will be there to pick them up at the end of the day. When you do go to drop them off make sure it is a quick transition – do not hang around and let them get on with their school day. Trust that the staff are well trained to know how do deal with separation anxiety and if you do have a particular concern, let the staff know and you can work through it together.