by Terry Rogers
When your child starts school for the first time or is transitioning from one school to another, it can be a stressful time, not only for students but for parents as well. Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent of Milford School District, offered suggestions that can help reduce the stress and make the transition to or between schools much easier.
“Children will generally be less anxious about starting new experiences when they know what to expect,” Dr. Dickerson said of children starting Morris Early Childhood Center for the first time. “In the weeks leading up to beginning school or daycare, casually talk to your child about what he/she will be doing during a typical day, the teachers, the other children and their school materials, such as the uniform, lunch box and school bag they will be using. It can be helpful to talk through and practice simple strategies for negotiating school situations, like asking a peer to play for taking turns with a toy.” Dr. Dickerson suggests reading books about school as well which can spark discussion about alleviating potential fears.
Separation anxiety is not uncommon when children start school for the first day and parents may experience a tearful child who doesn’t want them to leave. Dr. Dickerson suggests keeping goodbye rituals simple and brief. The staff at Morris is well-prepared to handle a child who is upset when a parent drops them off at school. Teachers and staff have been provided tools and skills to calm a child after their parents are gone so that learning is not significantly disrupted. Dr. Dickerson also suggests staying informed about classroom rules, routines and events in order to hold conversations about school when the child returns home.
“Children will need to attend school or daycare regularly in order to have the opportunity to form the relationships with peers and adults that will be necessary to help them overcome separation anxiety,” Dr. Dickerson explained. “Most importantly, praise your child’s efforts, no matter how small. It is important to let them see that even small steps count.”
In an effort to allow new and transitioning students time to adjust to their new school, Milford School District has scheduled a transition day for Kindergarten, first, sixth and ninth grade is Thursday, August 30. Morris Early Childhood Center has planned a staggered schedule for the day with visitation times specified for each student and family. Morris will be communicating information regarding these times to families. The first grade transition event at Benjamin Banneker, Lulu Ross and Mispillion is from 8 AM to 9:30 PM. Milford Central Academy will hold theirs from 8:25 AM to 1:25 PM and Milford High School will hold theirs from 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Transportation is provided for both MCA and MHS.
The first day of school is Tuesday, September 4. Morris students may be dropped off at 8:25 AM and students depart at 3:30 PM. Parents picking up their child can arrive between 3:10 and 3:25 PM. Banneker, Mispillion and Ross students may be dropped off starting at 7:15 AM and are expected to be in their classroom at 7:35 AM. Dismissal begins at 2:25 PM and buses depart at 2:30 PM. Milford Central Academy opens doors for students at 8:25 AM and students must be in homeroom by 8:35 AM. Dismissal is at 3:25 PM and buses depart at 3:30 PM. Milford High School’s first period class begins at 7:35 AM and students may enter the building starting at 7 PM. Dismissal is at 2:18 PM with buses departing at 2:25 PM.
Just like students who are entering school for the first time, preparation is key for students who are transitioning to a new school, especially at the elementary level.
“Read books with your child about starting a new school,” Dr. Dickerson said. “Give your child some control over the process of helping to get supplies and getting ready for school. It’s also important to keep consistency for your child in other parts of their lives. Remember, you don’t want to make too many changes in their lives at one time, if possible. Having structure at home and getting ready for the school year by getting to bed at a set time can also be helpful when transitioning into the new school year.”
Dr. Dickerson suggested talking to your child to let them know it is okay to be nervous as change is always stressful and everyone experiences it. However, it is important to also stress the new and exciting experiences they will have as well as the new friendships they will establish. Dr. Dickerson says that reminding your child that they will still have friends from their old school and may have staff they remember in the new school as well will help calm their fears. Pointing out that their friends may have the same fears should also help reduce the child’s stress.
“Connecting your child with someone else that they know that is also making the same transition can be a great way to ease their anxiety,” Dr. Dickerson said. “If they don’t know anyone, talk with a school administration or school counselor about pairing them up with a peer buddy to help them through the transitional time.”
Bringing students to the various welcome events at the schools can also help reduce stress as they will meet teachers, administrators and other students. Dr. Dickerson also suggests having children look at the academic, extracurricular and program offerings to see if there things that interest them. This may include sports, clubs, organizations or other programs offered to students at the various schools. Teachers, counselors, staff and administrators are all available to help any student who feels stress about their new school.
“The more our students feel comfortable working with others, the more they will enjoy coming to school,” Dr. Dickerson said. “Of course, talk positively about the start of the school year with your child. We are excited to have them coming back and have a ton of exciting things planned for them.”