A child’s transition to attending school is recognized as an important moment in life and a developmental milestone.
However it can be a tough transition as they go from a familiar home environment to a structured school format.
As a result, you might see your child showing unwelcomed behaviors such as involuntary emotional outbursts, disruptive talking, fighting, or name-calling. These are all ways they try to escape their new environment or seek your attention.
Here are some ways you can help your child cope with the changes of starting school while also working to resolve any negative behavior.
Assess your child’s ability to adjust to different environments.
Observe your child in different situations and look for small changes in his or her demeanor before the disruptive behaviors arise. This will give you some insight into how your child adjusts to new environments.
Create a plan to reduce potential causes of the negative behavior.
Take advantage of some opportunities presented by their school such as participating in any open houses at the school, attending meet-the-teacher night, or entering the classroom with your child.
As you establish a positive relationship with the kindergarten teacher, you can be in a better position to advocate for your child without undermining the teacher. Remember, collaboration is the right attitude during your child’s educational experience. Questions you should ask yourself include: “How can I help the teacher in their job?” and “What can I do at home to assist my child in presenting appropriate behaviors?”
- Reduce the contrast between home and school environments to assist in your child’s transition.
- Brainstorm with your child’s teacher on how to make the kindergarten experience positive for your child.
- Share the information learned from your assessments so the teacher can have a better understanding of your child’s signals of distress.
- See about reducing the child’s classroom work requirements if it will help them demonstrate more positive behavior when they aren’t feeling so overwhelmed.
- Increase access to preferred activities during the school day. For example, you could take some of your child’s favorite items from home and have the teacher provide them as the child presents appropriate behaviors (positive reinforcement).
Teach your child to ask for a break if needed.
When your child is feeling frustrated or restless, teach them to ask for a break. Here’s a simple approach to implementing a break system:
- Select a signal your child can demonstrate without difficulty such as a “break” card or a simple hand signal.
- Create a situation where your child can use the signal such as when they are completing homework.
- As you see your child’s restlessness or frustration, prompt them to ask for a break. You can say, “Do you want a break?” and give your child the card or physically assist them with the simple hand signal.
- As soon as you receive your child’s “break” card or hand signal, stop the activity and give your child a short break.
- After the break, bring your child back to the activity and start the procedures again.
Relay this information to the teacher and ask if your child can communicative when he or she needs a break. If the teacher is on board, they can offer your child a short break from the activity that is causing them distress.
Give your child a token of your love.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, your child will show involuntary emotional behaviors. Giving them a little token of your love can be a special reminder of you, something physical that they can see or touch.
Then, as you assess your child’s abilities in different situations, give them verbal tools to supplement their ability to cope with difficult moments. For example, when they look at the token you can teach them to say something like “I will play with friends at the school” or any phrase that might take your child to imagine a better environment.
Working on assisting your child in learning better behaviors can be difficult but you can do it with love and collaboration with others.