Communication between program staff and parents is essential to preparing children for the transition to school. When staff understand and address parental feelings from the beginning, the process is smoother and more effective.
Teachers and advocates partner with parents in addressing their children's growth and development. Using the child's skills and temperament as the focus, staff develop action plans with the family to address agreed upon goals, both for the child and the family. One aspect of this partnership is recognizing that the parent's thoughts and feelings about a particular goal are often affected by a parent's own childhood experience. This is particularly true in relation to transitions. The first day of kindergarten remains a powerful memory for many adults.
Each of us approaches transitions differently. Starting a new job, moving to a new home, forming new relationships—each of these experiences can be seen as intimidating or exciting, or both. Prior experiences and life-long patterns affect responses in new situations. It is easy to reassure the parent that everything will be fine, and, as a result, dismiss the parent's anxiety. But the parent's feelings are likely to affect the transition process. In these situations, it may be best to acknowledge parental emotions.
Parents' emotions are contagious. Staff can recognize that when a parent has difficulty leaving a child in the morning, the child often reflects that difficulty in her transition to the classroom. This transfer of emotion can also happen with the transition to school. What can staff do to support successful transitions when the parent is nervous about the change?
By gathering information about the receiving school and having the opportunity to share their thoughts, families can begin to feel more prepared for the transition. Their excitement builds, and they realize the schools are ready for their children.
Follow a Head Start program as it partners with families as they prepare for kindergarten. Explore this resource to find ideas, tips, and strategies to use to partner with families and schools as children transition to kindergarten.
National Centers:Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Last Updated: March 14, 2021