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Posts Tagged ‘Transitions’

Five Ways To Help Ease Back-To-School Butterflies

Back-to-school time is approaching, and excitement is in the air. Sometimes all that excitement can be accompanied by nervousness, though. Help ease back-to-school butterflies with these five simple tips:

  1. Begin transitioning your child into a consistent school-night routine a few weeks before school starts so he has time to get used to the new schedule;
  2. If your child has specific worries about the first day of school, listen to her, offer reassurance and brainstorm together for solutions;
  3. When dropping off your child, be loving, be direct and leave promptly. Don’t say you’ll miss him; instead, say you can’t wait to hear about his day;
  4. Visit the classroom, playground and/or building with your child a few times before school starts. This can help familiarize your child with a new environment, easing any anxiety she might have;
  5. Establish a reasonable bedtime so that your child will be well-rested and ready to learn in the morning.

Books for Creating Excitement and Confidence about Starting Kindergarten

The transition to kindergarten can be scary for children, even if they have been to play groups and preschool.  If your child will continue to attend The Goddard School®, the transition may be easier than the transition to public school or another private kindergarten program.  However, the transition from pre-k to kindergarten is still a significant step. Reading books to your child about the transition can help ease any anxiety about starting kindergarten. The sampling of books below touch on the challenges children and their parents face when children move on to kindergarten.

The Night before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrel

This book is a twist on The Night before Christmas poem and shows children the fun of getting ready for kindergarten by packing supplies for school, setting their clothes out for the first day and taking first-day pictures.  This book also shows children excitedly exploring their classroom for the first time.

Kindergarten, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg

This is a great, poetic book illustrating some of the milestones children face as kindergarteners, including first-day nerves, new friendships, the experience of losing a tooth and hundredth-day celebrations.

Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis

This book addresses a child’s typical concerns about starting kindergarten.  With the help of a familiar face and fun learning experiences, the main character quickly learns to embrace kindergarten.

Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss (illustrator)

This story explains that children entering kindergarten don’t need to know everything on the first day. The main character fears she will be the only one who doesn’t know how to tie her shoes. She later realizes that she isn’t alone; other classmates are in the same boat.

The Twelve Days of Kindergarten: A Counting Book by Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis

This rhyming story illustrates the experience of starting kindergarten and provides opportunities for children to work on skills that are necessary for school, like counting.

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Geoff Stevenson (illustrator)

Addressing the subject of separation anxiety, this story teaches children that they are never really alone.  This book is also recommended for toddlers and preschoolers.  It tells children that those we love stay with us through life’s challenges and experiences.

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff (illustrator)

This book shows what teachers may do to prepare their classrooms for the children and shares the excitement of starting a new year and meeting new faces.  Offering an opportunity to study the alphabet and rhyming words, this book provides a fun, educational read for children heading to kindergarten.

mom.me: 10 Books to Get Kids Excited for Kindergarten
cozi: 10 Books Perfect for New Kindergarteners

The Need to Feel Secure

The need to feel secure is a serious matter when children are out of their parents’ care.  Their emotional cues are the key to understanding what can help them in being comfortable and appropriately dependent.  From thumb-sucking and pacifiers to “loveys and softies,” children must be allowed to discover and use the props that help them to comfort themselves and manage stress, especially when parents are absent.  That children can use these props and tactics is a testament to their parents’ success in helping them to cope with life’s discomforts and uncertainties.

These objects are transitional.  As children grow in their capacities to adapt to and manage change and troublesome emotions, they will give them up on their own.  I advise parents not to take them away, especially during these transitions.  On the contrary.  Keep them in good repair!  I have seen blankets and toys that were rags and shadows of their former selves, glues, patched, and re-stitched, still providing soothing magic.

Thumb-sucking into the second year can cause some tooth disruption if it is especially intense and prolonged.  Pacifiers are kinder to the mouth and teeth because they distribute sucking pressure more evenly throughout the mouth.  By the first birthday, the need for non-nutritive sucking usually starts to diminish, so that by 18 months, walking and talking are picking up the self-stimulation slack.  Comforting should be spread out over rocking, cuddling, softies, etc., lessening the appetite for sucking.

Milestones Matter: From Crib to Bed

Generally, the goal is to keep your toddler in a crib as long as possible. You’ll know it’s time to transfer them to a bed when they become persistent in trying to climb out of their crib, are simply too big or too active or are beginning night time potty training. By three years old, most children have made the transition. Once they are potty training they will need to be able to access the bathroom. Children rely on routine and rituals, so any major shift can be difficult—don’t rush into this change before it becomes necessary. Although crib climbing and toddler escape artists can be cause for alarm, so is the idea of a roaming toddler during the middle of the night.

When you decide the time is right for your child, place the new bed in the same place their crib was. If possible, include your child in the selection of their new bed or bedding. Add to the excitement by encouraging your child to show off their “big kid bed” to friends and family members. Some children are very attached to their crib while others readily adjust to the change. Be considerate of all the pressures your child is facing at this stage to “grow up,” and how those feelings may play into their reaction during this transition.

Don’t automatically give up if your little one has trouble adjusting. Persuade your child to give the new bed a chance. If you feel that the switch was too soon, try bed rails or encourage your child to select a new “lovey” to snuggle up with in the “big kid bed.” Give this transition several nights’ tries. In extreme cases, you may have to take a step back and try again later without presenting it as a failure or punishment.

Potty Training Tips

1.)  Once your child shows behaviors of potty training and your child follows general instructions willingly, he/she is ready to learn and follow new instructions, like those for potty training.

Behaviors of Potty Training

  • Shows an interest in the bathroom
  • Can pull down and pull up his/her pants
  • Can walk over to and sit down on the toilet by themselves
  • Knows what “wet” and “dry” mean

2.)  It is important for your child to understand you are starting something new. Signal this big transition to your child by switching from diapers to training pants.

3.)  Give enthusiastic approval when instruction is followed: hugs, kisses and verbal praise.

4.)  Remember; never try to potty train a child during a time of stress, such as when your family is moving, going on vacation or when the child is sick. If it doesn’t seem to be working, take a break and try again in a few weeks or months. It will happen; just give it time.

Ask the Expert: Transitioning to Childcare

My daughter is currently cared for by my mom (her grandmother) while we are at work. I would like to move her to a center for a few days per week when she is 15 months old, mostly for additional stimulation and socialization. Can you please recommend steps we can take to make the transition the easiest on her?

Transitioning your child from home care to childcare is wrenching for every parent.  In fact, most babies and young children adapt to their new environment more easily than parents do.  And it’s important for parents to appreciate and care for their own emotions at this juncture.

As with so many things for young children, taking it slow and easy can work wonders.  If your child is moving into alternative childcare for the first time, make the transition gradual, providing lots of support.

  • Make sure your child meets the caregivers or teachers before moving into this new environment.  If you choose a childcare center or a preschool, make sure your child knows at least one other child in the class.  If your child doesn’t already know someone, ask the caregiver to suggest one or two children who might be good matches for your child, and set up a few play dates.
  • Talk to your child about the new arrangement, describing the friends to be made and the wonderful things to be done and learned.  Talk about being apart and getting back together.  Play games such as hide-and-seek that demonstrate being apart and together.
  • When moving to a new childcare arrangement, start gradually, if possible.  For example, allow your child to be alone at the childcare center for short periods at first, then slowly increase the time away from you.
  • Once the new arrangements are underway, get up a bit earlier so you have time together before you leave.  Also, make special family times in the evenings and on weekends.
  • Let your child take her favorite toy or “softie” to school.
  • Tell the caregiver or teacher of any factors that might influence your child’s behavior or needs for the day, such as a restless night, family illness or visits from relatives.
  • Be aware that separation anxiety may come and go in cycles.  You can ease your child’s upsets if you make your departure warm and smooth, staying long enough to let your child settle in, but without lingering.  And never sneak out or lie, telling your little one you “will be right back” just before you dash to the parking lot.  Your child needs to be able to rely on his trust in you as he navigates this new world.
  • When you pick your child up, ask the caregiver about what happened during the day.  Then discuss the day’s events with your child.

Managing Parental Emotions of Childcare

Don’t pretend you’re fine when you’re not.

It’s much better to acknowledge your feelings.  It’s normal to feel grief at this change.  You will come through sooner and better if you face your feelings head on.

Sensory Table with Teacher & Young GirlDon’t believe you are a bad parent for choosing childcare.

If you have chosen a good center or caregiver, you can be confident that your child is in good hands, so there is no logical reason to feel guilty.  But if you continue to feel guilty, it’s important to come to grips with these feelings.  Be especially alert if you are tempted to change your parenting style.  For example, some parents start easing up on setting limits to compensate for their guilt.  Such behavior leads nowhere you or your child want to go.

Don’t become critical of your child’s caregiver.

It’s important to have a good relationship with caregivers.  Their observations and advice can be extremely helpful to your parenting.  If you find you feel critical even though the caregiver’s work doesn’t merit such an attitude, recognize that your feelings are a part of the separation process.  Then begin to focus on the caregiver’s talents and good qualities.  Rest assured that no caregiver will take your place in your child’s life or heart.  The new attachments to other warm and loving caregivers are beneficial.  They also are good signs of your child’s emotional maturity and your achievement in nurturing that maturity.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the transition to childcare.

If you pretend the new routine doesn’t matter, you may underestimate the good things that can come from this new experience for your child and you – new friends, new learning, new sources of information and new ideas on parenting.


Guest Post
by Dr. Kyle Pruett, M.D.

For all their enormous passion to explore, invent and challenge the world order, children are basically a pretty conservative crowd. They love their creature comforts: dog-eared books, macaroni, and juice. This is why life’s transitions are more an annoyance than a welcome change to children. For many toddlers, moving furniture around in their room is all it takes to alter their sleep for a few weeks.  And their move from crib to bed takes coordination and patience worthy of a corporate merger. Some of life’s inevitable transitions include moving and travel:


A move is an adult-imposed and radical change in a child’s world order and they rarely embrace it. Kids lose familiarity, meaningful stuff and places, and competence in doing the familiar in the usual places with ease and predictability.

  • Prepare far ahead, and have a goodbye party.
  • Accept grumpy resistance and regression – it’s not their idea, they’re entitled to complain.
  • Keep familiar treasures with you and move their room in first.
  • Stay in touch with your old neighborhood if your child is old enough to have established connections.


Travel is more necessary than ever for job security. Prepare to hate it – just about everyone does, including the kids. How many of us have learned to deal with a cold shoulder (temporarily) upon our safe return?

  • Answer the ‘why’ you have to go as simply as possible and don’t minimize the time away to ‘ease’ your absence. It strains trust all around.
  • Mark the days on a calendar for preschoolers and show them your destination on a map.
  • Do NOT sneak out – it robs children the chance to cope or cry with your help.
  • Make a ritual of phone calls, even when children have little to say. Remember: you left them and it is your responsibility to hold the relationship together.

Try your best not to travel around special family events such as holidays, birthdays and important school events.  And when you return home, be home – stay off the phone or computer, and get down on the floor with your kids and stay there till they get up and leave you. They will eventually understand why you travel. But for now, it’s up to you to prove that you’ll always come home.

Kyle D. Pruett, M.D. is an advisor for The Goddard School®.  Dr. Pruett is an authority on child development who has been practicing child and family psychiatry for over twenty-five years.  He is a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale University’s Child Study Center.