Easing First Day Jitters: Strategies for Successful Home-to-School Transitions- This article presents home-to-school strategies that teachers and families can use to reduce young children’s school adjustment challenges.

Dear Lower Lab Families,

I came across this article on the National Association for the Education of Young Children and found it to be very informative. As we start to share info with families on how the school day will begin during the pandemic,  please take some time to review these tips. As a Lower Lab Alumni, I used some of these tips for my child and they were helpful.

https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/sep2015/easing-first-day-jitters

SARA B. TOURS, LINDSAY R. DENNIS

It’s the first day of preschool for Sophia, who just turned 3 a week ago, and she and her mother, Vanessa, are walking into the school for the first time. As Vanessa opens the front door, Sophia grasps her mother’s hand a little tighter. They walk into Sophia’s classroom where her teacher, Ms. Lisa, greets them warmly. Ms. Lisa shows them the children’s cubbies and Sophia puts her backpack and lunch in her cubby. Vanessa bends down with tears in her eyes and hugs Sophia. Sophia whispers in her mother’s ear, “I’m ready to go home now, done with school.” Her mother tells her that she will stay at school with Ms. Lisa and the other children. Vanessa assures Sophia that she will come back after lunch to pick Sophia up. As Vanessa walks out of the classroom, she hears Sophia crying. Vanessa now has tears streaming down her face, and is having second thoughts about enrolling Sophia in preschool.

Families enroll their children in group care settings such as preschool, child care, or Head Start for a variety of reasons (Daniel 2009). Some families have two working parents, while others want their children to have more opportunities to socialize with peers. Regardless of the reason, the transition from home to school—that is, to out-of-home care—can be difficult, sometimes resulting in adjustment challenges that are stressful for the children, families, and teachers. Teachers, however, can use the morning transition time as an opportunity to help children learn the skills they need to express their emotions (Fox & Lentini 2006) and reduce the potential for adjustment challenges that might extend into the day. Teachers can help children label how they feel—sad, angry, hurt, embarrassed—when their family members leave the room. It helps children when teachers tell them that what they are feeling is okay, and remind them that a family member will always come back to pick them up.

Children’s temperaments not only play a role in their development, they also impact their adjustment to school (Pelco & Reed-Victor 2003). Depending on the environment and situation, levels of a particular temperament trait may fluctuate. For example, a child who has a difficult time adapting to changes in everyday life, such as new foods or new routines, may have a harder time transitioning to school. However, a parent can slowly introduce the idea of what school is like to the child to help prepare her for this new period in her life. It is therefore important for teachers to remember that significant adults in children’s lives can modify the expression of temperament characteristics through careful use of purposeful strategies. Temperament characteristics are “biologically rooted individual differences in behavioral tendencies early in life” (Pelco & Reed-Victor 2003, 3). Adults can help modify temperament characteristics so that children feel comfortable in their new school. Children have different reactions to the home-to-school transition and may need support in a variety of ways to successfully adjust.

This article presents home-to-school strategies that teachers and families can use to reduce young children’s school adjustment challenges. We explore basic strategies, as well as more specific visual and auditory supports, and include specific examples of how they might be implemented at home and in the early education setting. These strategies and supports are useful for all children and their families, including children with disabilities and children who are dual language learners and their families.