8X: Supporting Morning and Afternoon Transitions
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Every day preschoolers must adjust from home life to school and then back again. Such transitions can be challenging for children, families, and teachers. Here are some suggestions from preschool programs to make mornings and afternoons go more smoothly.
Ask the Question of the Day. We post a simple question at eye level. There are two simple answers (e.g., yes/no, fruit/vegetable). The family member and child read the question together and answer it. This engages the child and gives the parent and child time to interact and transition together.
Hire diverse staff. It’s not always possible to find language or cultural matches for every family, but when we do, diverse families recognize the effort to welcome them.
Communicate and build trust. Parents tend to feel more at ease when they have access to information they need and when there are no surprises. Phone calls to parents who seem to be struggling with the transition can go a long way toward building trust.
Coach parents who are rushing. Children’s school experiences can improve dramatically when their family member spends five minutes helping them settle in at drop-off time.
Start a breakfast club. Families can join their child for cereal, milk, and fruit when they arrive. This can help a child feel more comfortable. It also provides a way for non-English-speaking families to spend time at school without worrying about language differences.
Be available. Have at least one administrator on site from the time the program opens until closing. This allows families with concerns to talk with an administrator immediately.
Make a good-bye window. Good-bye windows look out on the building entrance or parking area. This allows for a last wave, “I love you,” or silly dance—whatever families include in their parting routine.
Provide tips for parents. Clear drop-off instructions for families make the process run smoothly.
Establish a routine (including washing hands).
Make the good-bye short (extended departures increase anxiety levels).
Say good-bye once and then leave.
Trust that your child will be okay. (Call if you must check in.) Remember: The teachers have years of experience helping children manage transitions.
*Special thanks to Deborah Ravacon (Montgomery County Community College Children's Center), Mary Graham (Children's Village), Susan Beemer (Sunnyside Child Care Center at Smith), and Jen Ryswyk (Iowa State University Child Development Laboratory School) for their contributions.