By Tresa Hanna and Malkia “Kia” McLeod
As the days grow shorter, the signs suddenly appear everywhere: back- to-school supplies and fashion, Halloween candy and costumes, fall vegetables and foliage, football and hockey promos, and more.
Parents and families are often bombarded with those annual subtle and over-the-top messages that signal change. For many families, the signs all point to transitioning to a new child care program or school. Transitions can be stressful and challenging for parents and families, and for their providers and teachers, to navigate.
What is meant by transitions and why are they so challenging? Transitions mean change. Change can be difficult for many people, especially young children transitioning to new home or community, kindergarten, routines, and rules. For example, in a structured environment, young children are expected to stop playing and move easily into the next activity. This can be a tough adjustment for children, and sometimes for their parents as well.
For Parents and Families
Before taking on any transition, take a moment and breathe. Then check out these six simple ideas from Brooks Publishing Company’s Learning Activities & More to support young children in times of change:
- Prepare children for changes. Changes such as starting preschool can be stressful to young kids. Discuss the details of changes with them. Knowing what to expect will help decrease their fears.
- Talk to children about feelings. Ask your child how they’re feeling. Teach emotion words such as happy, scared, mad or worried.
- Keep children away from scary situations. This includes fictional scares in TV shows or video games.
- Be comforting. When a child is scared or worried, offer comforting words and actions. Later, when your child is calm again, talk to them about what happened.
- Limit talk about your own worries. When your child is near, try to be as positive as you can.
- Offer a mix of activities. A mix of active and quiet activities will give your child many ways to deal with stress.
For Providers and Teachers
The resources below can help guide providers and teachers as they support parents and families during transitions with their children:
- The Maryland Family Engagement Toolkit Goal 5: Transitions
- Maryland’s Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (SEFEL)
- Creating Routines for Love and Learning
- In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek (Video)
- The DRU Judy Center Promotes Family Well-Being (Bedtime Routines)