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Common Challenges in Transitioning to School

Learn about common challenges when transitioning your child to school.

Dealing with Challenging Behaviour

In the first few years of life, challenging behaviour is common and expected. Whether you are dealing with temper tantrums, aggression or generally challenging behaviour, it is important to note that:

Challenging behaviour in young children is:
  • A normal part of child development
  • A call for help. Your child needs your support in helping them to pull themselves together and regain control of their emotions
  • Preventable by addressing the cause of the behaviour

To learn more about how to manage challenging behaviour go to Parenting in the Early Years.

Separation Anxiety

Many parents expect to deal with separation anxiety in the toddler years, and are surprised if it returns just as the child starts school. By preschool, most children cope well with separation. They have had more experience saying good-bye and remember that you will return.

However during times of change, increased stress or anxiety, children may show more intense reactions to separation. This is normal. Being sensitive to your child’s feelings and working to provide reassurances for them will help the transition.

Helping your child cope:

  • Introduce them to new experiences in a slow and careful manner. Plan ahead – let them know what they can expect and be positive!
  • Practise separating. Start by building in short separations with your child by leaving them in familiar, child-friendly environments
  • Have a walk about at the school they will be attending. Let them play on the play ground equipment or perhaps make a visit to the school office or library. Introduce your child to the staff.
  • Attend the schools’ kindergarten orientation night – meet potential teachers, the principal and other families.
  • Try role playing with your child – play school and make it fun.
  • Read about it. There are many books about starting school – take a trip to your local library and discover the books together with your child

When you leave:

  • Always say goodbye. Consider developing a goodbye ritual (blowing kisses, tickling, or singing a goodbye song).
  • Show confidence and give lots of praise and acknowledge feelings. “I know you are nervous – mommy was scared too when I started my new job but I know that you can do this!”
  • Exit quickly and without hesitation

Pick-up time is just as important to your child as drop-off time. At the end of the day:

  • Show them you are happy to see them, greet them with a smile and give them a big hug
  • Tell them you missed them and are happy to see them
  • Allow them to show/tell you about their day before moving onto the next task
  • Help them to develop a positive outlook about their school experience by asking them to tell you about two great things that happened to them that day

When you meet your child’s teacher let them know that your child may struggle with separating. They are part of your team and want your child to succeed. They will work with you to help them with this transition.

Helping Your Kindergartner with Separation Anxiety

Sleep Challenges

As adults, when we are well rested it is easier for us to manage our emotions, follow instructions and stay on task. The same is true for young children.

Setting the stage for healthy sleep habits:

  • Set a goal for your child to have 10-13 hours of uninterrupted sleep (external link).
  • Build in physical activity during the day to burn off excess energy.
  • Limit screen time one hour before bed to help prepare their brain for sleep.
  • Some children may struggle to get through the day's activities and may benefit from starting their bedtime routine earlier.
  • Do relaxing activities before bed such as reading, listening to calming music, or lying in bed with your child talking (external link) quietly about their day.
  • Close blinds or drapes and keep the lights low.

Picky Eating

It is frustrating as a parent when you take the time to pack a healthy lunch for your child and it returns half eaten or not eaten at all! Not to mention, that food provides the nutrients for young brains to function well at school.

Refer to new Healthy Eating Toddler/Preschooler pages