school age
Making the Transition from Summer to School

"Back-to-School Sale!" ads bombard us as September approaches. These ads imply that the magic ingredient for preparing for the new school year lies in your "Back-to-School" purchases. While parents do need to purchase back-to-school supplies, what you say and do with your child before school begins will go a long way in preparing your child for the transition from summer to school.

Good communication is at the heart of successful transition to school - communication between you and your child and between you and your child’s school and teacher(s). Schools rely in large part on registration materials. They obtain important information about your child, including immunization requirements, arrangements for transportation, and other generic information from what you put on these forms. You can support the school by having all required forms and documents completed and returned by the school’s deadline. The staff cannot appropriately prepare for your student otherwise.

How you react to the preparation for school will influence your child dramatically. Showing your belief that school will be a positive and rewarding experience will build your child’s confidence. If your child is concerned about a new school environment and meeting new friends and teachers, take your child’s cue to chat openly and acknowledge that this is a natural feeling. While parents are concerned about curriculum and related issues, children are focused on details about the environment and the people in it. Here are some suggestions for dealing with your child’s concerns:

• Include frequent "drive-bys" during the summer so your child can "see" the school.

• Make play dates with some children who go to your child’s school.

• Arrange to play at the school’s playground. Point out the layout: the location of the doors, for example.

• Arrange for a building tour before school. Locate where the rest room is and try it out. Learn where children hang up their jackets and backpacks.

• If possible arrange to have your child meet (briefly) the principal and the teacher. Just that visual and brief contact can make all the difference in the world.

• Help your child write a note to the teacher about what he likes and dislikes.

Draw a picture or make something for the teacher.

• If your child expresses fears about school, don’t deny them. Reinforce that everyone is unsure about new things sometimes.

Before school begins, it’s a good idea to have a couple "practice runs" with the bedtime and morning routines to help both your child and YOU. If you’ve had flexibility with bedtimes in the summer, it will take more than just the night before school to readjust. Plan out your morning: make a list with words, pictures and clock faces, detailing the order of the routine. This exercise will also support your child’s understanding of time. After practicing the morning routine, tell your child what you will be doing once he’s gone to school - whether you’ll be at work or at home.

Establishing a cooperative, trusting partnership with your child’s teacher is one of the most important things you will do. Here’s how:

• Be positive

• Send a short introductory note before school begins.

• Try to schedule a brief face-to-face meeting during the first week of school (Teachers need some time to get to know the students, so brief and positive is the way to go).

• After a few weeks, drop a note or call to check progress. Make an appointment for more serious concerns.

• Volunteer your time to work in the classroom or help if needed.

• Give your child and his teacher space!

• If you drive your child to school, say your good-byes once. Don’t promote clinging or prolonged good-byes.

• Separate at the door or car; don’t go into the school.

• Refrain from giving instructions about "being good" or "not crying."

Now, about those ads! Here are some tips for those all important back-to-school purchases:

Backpacks- Do not be lulled into purchasing the character-of-the-year backpack! Backpacks should be functional, and quality does count! Buy a backpack with good, durable fabric and a strong, but easy-to-use zipper! Quality packs will last. Have your child practice using the pack!

School supplies- Unless you have received a list before school begins, do not go crazy buying materials! The list from the teacher may be dramatically different from your purchases. Not much is needed on day 1!

Clothes- Check and see what you have. In September, the kids are still wearing summer clothing. Kids grow fast and they are creatures of habit. The children need to be comfortable and do not need an extensive and expensive new wardrobe to begin the school year. Sometimes it’s best to hold off on too many purchases until the children have settled in and the weather begins to change.

Have a great school year!

Resources for Parents

Kindergarten Isn’t What It Used to Be : Getting Your Child Ready for the Positive Experience of Education by Mitch Golant, Susan K. Golant, 3rd Revised Edition (Lowell House, November 1999).

Getting Your Child Ready for School by Teacher Created Materials Staff (Editor), Grace Jasmine (May 1997).

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Kindergarten-But Didn’t Know Who to Ask (Scholastic Parent Bookshelf) by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic Paperbacks, August 1996).

Ready for Kindergarten: An Award Winning Teacher’s Plan to Prepare Your Child for School by Sharon Wilkins (Zondervan Publishing House, April 2000).

National Association for the Education of Young Children
Off to School: A Parent’s-Eye View of the Kindergarten Year by Irene Hannigan, Order # 339 / $6
Ready to Go: What Parents Should Know about School Readiness #554
A Good Preschool for Your Child #517 (in Spanish #517S)
A Good Kindergarten for Your Child #524 (in Spanish #524S)
A Good Primary School for Your Child #579


Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! (Picture Books) by Nancy L. Carlson (Viking Childrens Books, June 1999).

When Dinosaurs Go to School by Linda Martin (Chronicle Books, August 1999).

What Will Mommy Do When I’m at School? by Dolores Johnson (Illustrator)(Aladdin Paperbacks, August 1998).

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate, Ashley Wolff (Illustrator) (Dutton Books, September 1996).

Dr. Ruby is a mother of four children and a regular contributor to All About Baby & Child. She has taught elementary school in grades K-3. Currently she is in private practice at Red Gem Educational Services as an Educational Consultant, specializing in Parent Advocacy and Tutorial (Enrichment and Remediation). Additionally, she is an adjunct professor in education at Southern Connecticut State University. She can be reached at 203.530.0271.


Copyright 2002 All About Baby& Child
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