Starting school for the first time? 4 tips that help transition.

August 15, 2014

Is your little one starting school for the first time?  Or maybe starting a new school?  Or maybe after a summer home with the family, a bit anxious about going back to school?  Motherburg is here to help you through it!  Here are our tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Tell them when they will see you again/get picked up

Even if your child has separated from you before, it is a bit easier when they are younger, or less able to verbalize their feelings. Look, we all know it is inevitable.  Some parents go back to work at 8 weeks, some kids stay home with a parent until 5.   But at some point, you will separate from your child.  If they are older, and talking, use the daily schedule (usually visibly hanging in the classroom, if not, ask the teacher) to determine their pick up.  Saying “I will pick you up at 2:30” doesn’t mean much - instead, say,  “I will pick you up after music time.”  If a caregiver is picking them up, say the same thing, “Maria will pick you up after music and I will be home after you eat dinner.”  Kids operate best when they can expect what is happening.  

2. Say Goodbye!

If you are given the opportunity to bring your child to the classroom, do not sneak out when your child is distracted.  It is much worse when they realize you are gone with no warning. Even if they cry, you need to tell them. It doesn't work well when mommy disappears suddenly. They trust and love you. Be honest with them. If there is an opportunity for you to stay for a bit, say, “mommy will do one puzzle with you, then she needs to leave.”  

3. When you say goodbye, mean it.  

So many times parents will say bye, and then the child would say no, no, no, so they would stay. Then try again, and again.... This can be very confusing to a child.  Hopefully your child’s school allows for a little bit of parent time, so, as you walk to school, or as you unpack and take their coat off, you can say, “mommy will stay for one story or one puzzle, etc.” If your program does not allow for this, as you walk to school, remind them, “mommy will take your coat off, and put your lunch away, then she will give you a big hug and kiss and see you after lunch. “ (Or again, the babysitter/grandma/friend will pick them up after the last activity and try to say when you will see them.)  

The tears begin . . .

Can you hear your child screaming as you exit the classroom, even leave the building?  I promise you it doesn't last long.  Sure, it might be hard, but, many teachers are used to this and are great at redirecting them.  I would have students crying hysterically for two minutes, then it was over.  Sometimes the initial goodbye is hard, but, once you are gone, off they go to play with their friends or find an activity.  Trust the teacher, but of course follow up and ask how they adjusted.  

4. They are going to be tired, and they are going to take it out on you

A school day - 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours…. is a long day.  For a 2 year old, for a 4 year old, even for a 6 year old.  Many children will be great at school and then fall apart once they leave.  Keep in mind that your child loves you and feels safe to show you any emotion.  While they 'keep it together' at school, it is a long, structured, emotional day for them.  When they get home they might be tired, or just plain spent from learning and playing and sharing and listening.  Therefore, they may take out their anger or tiredness on you.... The mommy they know and love, vs. The new teacher they are dealing with.   Most likely your child is great at school and just letting it out with you.  But of course, speak with their teacher about their behavior and see if anything is up.   (side note - they might also be hungry!  Sometimes kids don’t each much at school, so be prepared and pick them up with snacks in hand!)

Flip side - they are mad when you come to get them!

The school environment is an exciting one!  New toys, new games, new friends. Don’t take it personally. They still love you. Be happy they are adjusting so well!


The joy of early childhood education is that the teachers want to be your partner.  Especially with toddler programs, it is critical for teachers and parents to have an open line of communication to discuss the child and their development.  Even with the preschool years, I know larger schools have a busier vibe, but try to check in with your teacher as soon as something pops up, don’t wait for a conference day.  Everyone wants the best for your child, and working together, it will be a great school year!


Photo: Hanneli 

Posted by Erica

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.