Thinking About Transitions
I love springtime! As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Chicago doesn’t have a great spring. The weather is very inconsistent and there are often cold, gray days throughout April and May and even into June sometimes. Perhaps that makes us Midwesterners appreciate the lovely, mild, sunny days that do occur even more than folks who live in sunnier and milder climes. I’d love to hear feedback on that.
In any case, I know that preschoolers often get both excited and a bit anxious as spring progresses. They know that their parents are thinking and talking about plans for the summer and for the next school year, and teachers are talking about which children will be leaving their programs to go on to kindergarten. It is a time of change. Many of the changes are welcome, such as the natural changes outdoors, with the lovely spring flowers and the leafing out of the trees, but there is also some fear of the unknown and the newness that is to come. What will my teacher/classmates be like next fall? Who do I know who is going to my camp with me this summer, or who will be taking care of me? These are questions that weigh on young children’s minds at this time. For those who are going on to kindergarten, there are usually mixed feelings of excitement, anticipation and some anxiety. While it always feels good to be acknowledged for being a “big girl” or “big boy,” ready for new challenges, there is much to be said for being little as well, and the recipient of lots of nurturing and protection.
I remember when my daughter was going to go to kindergarten, she drew an amazing picture, on both sides of a page of construction paper, and announced, “This is how I feel about starting kindergarten!” On one side of the page was a typical little girl drawing of a house and garden and swing set and flowers and a sun and a rainbow, and on the other side of the page, it was filled with dark scribbles, like a thunderstorm or something kind of creepy and disorganized! Perhaps this drawing reflected the fact that she is the daughter of two social workers and we have always focused on exploring feelings, but I felt that her two sided picture was the perfect expression of the contrasting feelings most of us have about approaching big changes!
Navigating the path of change can include lots of different emotions, on the part of teachers, parents, as well as children. We have all become comfortable with the situations we find ourselves in by this time of the year, in most cases. The children are comfortable in their classrooms and know their classmates and teachers, they know the routines and they know their way around their school building, and parents also have the sense of confidence that comes from having built a trusting relationship with teachers over the course of the school year.
Knowing that soon things will be different, while exciting and filled with new opportunities, can also be a little scary for all involved. Being aware of this mixture of emotions and talking about the positives and the concerns with young children is always helpful. Asking them what they’re thinking about, reading stories about summer camp, summer travel, changing classrooms, or starting a new school are helpful ways to explore their feelings and provide comfort and reassurance. I have always found children’s librarians to be great resources for topical children’s stories, and nowadays there is an amazing supply of high quality children’s literature that addresses all kinds of everyday life issues for young children.
Thinking for ourselves about what we are looking forward to over the summer and into the fall, as well as what might seem daunting, is a good way to keep a positive attitude while also thinking about and planning for what might be difficult. Helping children engage in this kind of reflective process will be helpful for them as well... what might be fun about kindergarten, or about being in the four year old class? What might be great about camp over the summer or spending a month with Grandma? What might be hard, and how can you and your child problem solve in advance to help get over the worries?
I wish you all delightful experiences and positive changes as we move towards summer and next fall!