Regardless of whether she goes to kindergarten or first grade in September, my 5-1/2-year-old will be coping with a new school and new friends this fall. Her very best friend is zoned for a different elementary school, in fact, and the two of them are already trying to find ways to spend as much time as possible together, not just this summer, but next school year as well.
It might not seem like that big of a deal to us now, as adults, but for little kids, "graduation" from kindergarten or preschool to elementary school can make for some serious stress. There's some great advice out there about getting your child ready for her next academic adventure, but what about easing the transition out of the setting she already knows and loves?
At Boston.com's In the Parenthood, I'm not talking about finding ways to celebrate, per se. Graduating preschool may be a milestone, but it's not a major accomplishment, as far as I'm concerned. (High school? Absolutely. Middle school? Maybe... depends on the child and whether he's overcome academic obstacles. There's something to be said for recognizing achievement and setting the stage for more of it, I think.)
So I'm not looking for ways to mark the end of Pre-K as much as I am trying to help a young child understand that these types of endings are a normal part of life, and that you can hold on to old friends while also making some new ones.
The experts at ChildAware.org suggest helping your barely school-age child cope with the transition by giving them a chance to have some input. Involving them in some of the decisions, when possible, planning ahead and giving them more details, listening to their fears and concerns and accepting their feelings can go a long way toward helping them feel comfortable about the change.
When it comes to maintaining their preschool friendships, the onus is on the adults. Follow your child's lead: If the friendship seems to be petering out, consider that it may have run its course, and let it go, but if the kids miss each other, make an effort to arrange playdates away from preschool, so that meeting in a non-school setting becomes their new "normal."
Parents, please share your wisdom: How will you (or how did you) help your child manage a transition to a new school?