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Back to School Fun

Getting your child ready for the transition from preschool or home to kindergarten may be overwhelming and emotional for some parents and children. In fact, studies note that nearly half of all children encounter some kind of adjustment problems. How children approach their first transitional phase depends on their temperament and, to an extent, their prior life experiences. Some children embrace new experiences with enthusiasm, while others are cautious or resist anything new. Different studies (PDF 99KB) mark this transitional phase as “one of the major challenges children have to face in their early childhood years.” For this reason, parents need to plan ahead to ease this transitional phase so it’s fun and memorable.  

This transition period (PDF 437KB) can be characterized as a child taking two steps forward and one step back: He or she grows and continues to learn in amazing ways—but, at the same time, the child regresses in some social and emotional behaviors. The regression in behavior is part of your child’s experiencing various levels of anxiety and mixed feelings of concern about new experiences: a school environment, teachers, new friends, the bus ride to school, and the change in routine. To reduce your child’s anxieties, parents need to carefully prepare for a positive and exciting transition that will help your child to feel confident, secure, and safe in order to be ready to start a new exciting journey into school.  

New Change and Expectations
This transition not only brings significant changes in your child’s life but also new and different expectations. During preschool, children are often allowed more free time to select activities and work together as a group. In contrast, children in kindergarten get less individualized attention due to the large class settings and are required to work individually in a setting where they have little or no free choice time. As a guide, parents (PDF 1.75MB) can use the following list of behaviors and/or characteristics that are often associated with children who adjust relatively well in school: 

  • Language development: The child can listen; follow directions; and communicate his or her needs, wants, and thoughts clearly. Language development is a key ingredient to successful learning.
  • Social and emotional development: The child can take turns, share, cooperate with others, show empathy and resilience, and express his or her own emotions.
  • Physical well-being and motor development: The child can jump, run, climb, cut with scissors, color or write with crayons/markers, as well as has healthy sleeping and nutritional patterns.
  • Approaches to learning: The child who is enthusiastic seeks to explore and is curious about learning.
  • Cognition and general knowledge: The child has problem-solving skills, knowledge about particular objects and the way the world works, an understanding of general numeracy and abstract thought, and imagination.

Tips To Ease Your Child’s Transition
In addition to knowing the different types of behaviors and/or characteristics that are linked with children adjusting well in school, parents can also ease the process by planning ahead and creating exciting opportunities for their child to have a smooth transition. Below are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Acknowledge separation fear. Separation fear is common among preschoolers and is developmental. During this transitional period, young children may experience separation fear. Acknowledge your child’s fears and feelings, and reassure him or her that you will be back. Stay positive and emphasize successes; with practice and patience, your child will become confident and independent.
  • Select books about the transition to school. (PDF 1.30KB) Reading about this transition may ease your child’s fears and anxieties. Don’t forget to ask your child to share his or her feelings while you are reading together.
  • Know your child’s strengths and challenges. (PDF 325KB) Has your child mastered the ABC’s? Does your child struggle to remember the sounds that letters make? How about numbers—can your child count and how far can he or she count? Can your child connect dots and write his or her name? Knowing your child’s skill and abilities allows you to track progress before he or she starts school. Parents can also share this information with your child’s teachers. Remember that, as a parent, you have the responsibility to advocate for your child’s special needs, health, and safety.
  • Visit your child’s new school. Attend the school orientation with your child; visit the kindergarten classroom; meet with the teacher; and walk around the playground, bathrooms, and cafeteria. Providing your child with this opportunity to get to know his or her new school will help reduce anxieties and fears.
  • Become active in your child’s school. Volunteer in the classroom or in the school. Communicate with your child’s teacher. Build and sustain a strong communication between home and school. As your child observes ongoing communication between home and school, he or she will realize that you think school is important.

Parents who work together with teachers and schools help create smooth and exciting transitions for children. Remember that parent involvement in their children’s education can boost their academic success. Enjoy being the parent of a kindergarten!

Family Activity: Getting Ready for School

Educator Activity: Getting Ready for Your New Kindergarten Class

Quiz for parents: A New Family Phase


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
Transition Planning Resources provides useful resources and planning tools to support children and families as they move from preschool or home to kindergarten:

  • Effective Transitions To Enhance School Readiness gives parents and educators practical information about transition experiences and their effects on children.

National Institutes of Health
“The Effect of School-Based Kindergarten Transition Policies and Practices on Child Academic Outcomes” (PDF 437KB) is a study that examines the importance of parent involvement to ensure positive school-based kindergarten transition practices. Guide Preschoolers
“How to Manage Preschool Separation Anxiety” gives parents practical ideas on how to reduce and manage preschool separation anxiety.

Early Childhood Research and Practice
“Starting School: Effective Transitions” (PDF 99KB) identifies the significance of starting school for young children, their families, and educators.

Rhode Island Kids Count
“Getting Ready: Findings from the National School Readiness Indicators Initiative—A 17 State Partnership” (PDF 1.75MB) gives parents useful information on how young children’s earliest experiences and environments set the stage for future development and success in school.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro and National Head Start Association
Terrific Transitions: Supporting Children’s Transition to Kindergarten is a website that provides parents and educators with information and resources on how to help build continuity between children’s early care settings and an effective transition to kindergarten:

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Updated on 3/22/2014