To address this transition, I began the school year reading one of my favorite books to the Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes.
"The Kissing Hand" is a wonderful story about a young raccoon named Chester, who is ambivalent about his first day of school:
"I don't want to go to school," he told his mother. "I want to stay home with you. I want to play with my friends. And play with my toys. And read my books. And swing on my swing. Please may I stay home with you?" Mrs. Raccoon took Chester by the hand and nuzzled him on the ear. "Sometimes we all have to do things we don't want to do," she told him gently. "Even if they seem strange and scary at first. But you will love school once you start."
Chester's mother teaches him a secret way to carry her love with him to school. She gives him a kiss in his hand, which he can carry with him wherever he goes, and will never wash away. Whenever Chester is lonely, he is reminded of the kissing hand, which provides comfort and reassurance.
The "Kissing Hand" can be incorporated into your own routine, or used as a way to help ease transitions to school on more difficult days.
Other Transitional objects can be helpful for students, such as a small stuffed animal (tucked into their backpack), a note with a message, a small smooth stone, or a piece of soft fabric. Transitional objects are items which provide emotional comfort and help encourage the transition to independence. Utilizing a transitional object is a healthy way to cope with stress and is supported by child development professionals. This recent article from the American Academy of Pediatric's webpage healthychildren.org provides some ideas for making the first few weeks of school easier, and includes transitional objects on their list of suggestions.
I found this article from the New York Times about comfort and transitional objects very interesting (Perri Klass, M.D., March 2013). "A Firm Grasp on Comfort" discusses the role of transitional objects in the development of our children:
"Indeed, Dr. Howard suggested that as many as 25 percent of young women going to college take along something identifiable as a childhood transitional object. The young adult going off to college, with or without stuffed animals or scraps of a favorite old blanket, should be a reminder that the challenges of separation - and the consolations and complexities of attachment - are not developmentally confined to the first years of life."
"The familiar image of the small child and the transitional object, generally sweet and mildly humorous, occasionally frantic and even desperate, reminds us that learning to negotiate, and even enjoy, partings and reunions is part of the whole assignment, for parents and children."
Please contact me if you have any questions related to this post or would like to know more about Counseling at Natomas Charter School.
I look forward to working with students and families this year!