Managing Milestones and Transitions: going back to school for kids and families

Published Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Whether your child is in fact a baby, or just “your baby” and entering middle school, junior high or (gasp) high school, transitions can be hard at all ages. Truth be told, the transitions are often harder for the parents. Happy to reach these monumental milestones, parents typically feel proud as their children start at new schools. Nevertheless, we also experience waves of bittersweet emotions as our “babies” grow up.

Likewise, generally, children can be excited to explore new environments, while concurrently anxious to leave their parents’ sides. Different reactions are normal and healthy.  

Anne Densmore, Ed.D, Harvard Health said “Remind your child “It’s okay to be afraid. But, you’ll feel better each day that you’re there. Lots of kids feel just like you do.” It can be tempting to try to brush off a child’s fear. Instead try to acknowledge your child’s fear as real and appropriate while offering reassurance”.

Below are some suggested tips for parents to facilitate the transition at the beginning of the preschool year.

  1. Talk about the transition to your child in a positive way. Begin this well before the first day of school.
  2. Start your school routine early. Reduce stress by getting used to new routines. Adjust your child to new bedtimes and wake up times a few weeks before school begins. Routines are comforting for us and for children and lead to smoother transitions.
  3. Reassure your child that you will always return at the end of the school day. If someone else is responsible for taking your child home, explain that person will be there every day. This type of reassurance often builds trust and confidence.
  4. Tuck familiar reminders of you in your child’s lunchbox or cubby. Family photos and hand-written love notes help institute your “presence” even when you’re minutes or miles from school.
  1. Develop a departure routine and stick to it. Children crave consistency. Always be brief in your goodbye; even if that means your child might cry for a little while. Consider having your child walk you to the door and give you two hugs and one kiss. Once the good-bye routine is completed, walk out of the room. Don’t linger and never sneak out on your child.

From time to time you may have concerns. Do not to let your own anxiety show. Focus on listening and encouraging your child. Acknowledge something positive about your child completing the school day.

When you arrive for pick up, focus on your child entirely. Ensure you are not distracted by phones and electronics. Greeting your child with a big kiss and hug – every day. 



Sheila Dalva-Hornback is the Director of the Early Childhood Learning Center, Aronoff Preschool at the Merage JCC, and is a mother of three in her own blended family

Learn more about the Aronoff Preschool »