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Little BIG Steps – Transition Strategies to Help Children Navigate Change

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At this time of the year many families are anticipating changes for their child’s learning and care with mixed feelings of excitement and uncertainty. Perhaps your child is starting school or kindergarten next year or attending childcare for the first time. Here are some transition strategies for guiding and preparing your child for new transitions.

Transition strategies at home

  • Consider your child’s current schedules – bed times, waking times, meal times. If you need to make an earlier start to the day for getting to school, kindy or child care, help your child to make small and steady adjustments to their routines. For example, going to bed 10-15 minutes earlier, waking up 10-15 minutes earlier, and gradually extending the time to get into the early start routine.
  • At night, practice getting ready for the next day – packing bags, having clothes ready, finding your hat, etc.

Make connections at school

Children becoming friends

  • Connect with the school or service’s digital communication to keep informed about transition programs and the curriculum.
  • Drive or walk past the school or service to help familiarise your child and chat positively about what you see.
  • Check the parent handbook for processes to help with a smooth transition, including orientation procedures, dropping off children, lunches, etc.

 What to bring on the ‘first’ day?

  • Does your child have a special item they are attached to that is practical to take with them? Comfort items help children feel connected to home and can help to reduce anxiety. Let your child’s teachers know about the item so they can support your child’s emotional wellbeing.
  • For younger children pack some extra clothes for changing into after any messy play or toileting practice.
  • Help your child to be SunSmart. Pack a wide-brimmed sun hat and sunscreen every day.

 Transition strategies for emotions and anxiety

Teacher engaged transition strategies

  • Chat positively with your child about going to school, kindy or childcare. Reassure them about familiar activities they will do and playing with their friends.
  • Often children take what we say quite literally. They can become worried in the lead up to Christmas when we talk about school starting after Christmas. Actually term 1 starts 5-6 weeks after Christmas, so keep conversations relaxed, talk about holidays, family activities. Gradually build up to discussing school start days.
  • Expect that your child might need extra time to settle into their new routine. Drop-off time is also a separation time, so it is natural for some children to feel nervous or upset.
  • If possible, stay a little longer for the first few days for you and your child to connect with the teachers, other children and the play environment.
  • Settle your child with a teacher or at an activity before saying goodbye.
  • Find more tips at Raising Children Network. Raising Children Network is an Australian Government funded parenting website providing free, expert information for families.

Back at home

  • After a big day of learning and playing your child will enjoy extra attention from you to feel a closer connection after being apart all day. Plan special moments together like reading a story, watching a favourite TV program or helping with dinner preparation.
  • Gentle prompts will help your child talk about how they are feeling and tell you about their day.
  • Developing evening rituals such as getting clothes and bags ready for the next day can support your child’s understanding of the daily schedule and assist in feeling organised.

Sharing transition strategies with your child’s school or service will support a consistent approach and contribute to a successful transition for your child.

*This article was written by Sabina Klepp, Education Practice Partner, Story House Early Learning and appeared in our print issue 42, October/November 2020. Find more articles for helping children deal with anxiety and separation here.

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