My daughter’s transition from kindergarten to grade one was dramatic, exhausting and accompanied by some very challenging behaviours. .
For 2-3 months, reasonable day-to-day requests were met with extreme reactions:
Chicken for dinner = screaming and accusations “how could I do that to her AND the chicken?”
Time for a bath = stomping up the stairs while littering her dirty clothes through the house
Wearing clean underwear = exhaustive nonsensical arguing, “but I change them yesterday…”
Time for bed = motionless, uncommunicative, silence…
Carrying her own backpack = non-stop crying accompanied by kicking and throwing the innocent backpack at the innocent me.
As you can see, my expectations were pretty basic. Eat, sleep, be clean. Even so, once a week I could expect an epic, full scale, knockdown, drag out meltdown.
I went into this transition with my eyes open. The changes were big: a smaller classroom with more desk time and less playtime, ½ day to full day, a new before and after school program, a new teacher, friends split up and the weight of higher expectations. She was no longer one of the littlest kids in school and that was scary. In spite of her being a well-adjusted good student the jump from kindergarten to grade one really knocked her out.
Here are some things I learned that year:
- Be realistic and don’t overreact. Back to school at any age can be very stressful. We need to understand what our kids can handle and react accordingly. This was not the time to be stern and strict but compassionate and understanding (with boundaries.)
- Remain calm and remind yourself that this is only a moment in time. Behaviours due to transition don’t last forever. My daughter came back to me and yours will too.
- Make extra time to talk. Intentionally carve out some one-on-one time to chat and listen. Conversation can reveal what your child worries and fears are you just need to pick up on the cues.
- Seek support from other parents and know you are not alone. Other families may look perfect but they aren’t. The more open I was about our struggles the more parents said to me “I’m so glad I’m not the only one” and the better I felt.
- Communicate with the teacher. Make sure your child’s struggles are transition related and not a bigger issue. I was greatly relieved and somewhat annoyed that her worst behaviour was exclusively for me.
- Maintain time for activities that are proven to lower stress – open-ended play, connect with nature or read together for pleasure.
Good luck. You can do it.