At Post Oak, transitions are part of our everyday language, from the daily classroom transitions our children experience to cyclical level and classroom movements. Throughout these changes, we prepare intentionally and mindfully, aware that a child might experience these differently depending on their emotional needs.
To help you bring some of our Montessori practices home and ease transitions with your young child as they grow, our early childhood experts, Miriam Winton and Mirani Smith, share tips and guidance for these periods of your family’s life.
Emotional preparations to welcome new family members
One of the first transitions that we think of is the arrival of a newborn in our homes. We remember to address the physical preparation of the space, but we must also remember to prepare for the emotional part of welcoming a new member of the family.
Some questions we might ask ourselves include: What am I doing in my house to welcome this baby from the front door to the child's room? What am I doing with the family, the extended family, our social network to welcome this baby? Those are the transitions we as adults can intentionally prepare for.
Prioritize language development and communication
As Montessorians, we prioritize the development of language, and this starts all the way from our earliest communications with newborns. Babies may not understand the words we use, but they are aware of the tones of our voices. From our gentle murmurs to our excited chatter, being mindful of how we speak is critical to the emotional development of children.
As your child grows older, we encourage you to have two-sided and open-ended conversations. In inviting your child to share and explore their feelings and memories, you are able to tune in to how they are experiencing moments of transition. For example, when starting school, you can ask, What do we have to do to get ready for school?, as part of your morning preparations.
For families with siblings, these conversations allow you to focus on the individual progress of each child, instead of trying to measure based on perceived norms and standards.
Establish routines and schedules
It's important to keep routines and schedules for your child, as keeping order and providing those times for your child can be soothing. At school, students know what transitions they’ll be experiencing throughout the day and how the adults will move around them thanks to our set routines. We provide a sense of security through these practices by focusing on what’s known around us.
Thinking about bedtime routines, you can chat with your child to get an understanding of their day, reminding them of your love and support. Remember that discussing tomorrow (you’re going to get up and go to school) can be scary for a child because of the unknowns. Try: You had such a great day. I'm so happy to have this time together. I love you. Good night!
Provide comfort through the familiar
As we provide comfort to children through routines, we can also relieve any anxieties about new environments by creating a sense of the familiar. We can help our children familiarize themselves with the new people at planned events or activities by showing them portraits of people they will encounter. (You can do this in preparation for the first day of school by checking our faculty directories with your child.)
Similarly, on repetitive rides, point out any landmarks, which can be as simple as stores or construction sites, as a way to connect them to an environment and provide a sense of belonging.
Personal behavior mindfulness
Through changes, big and small, caregivers should be mindful of how their own behaviors may prevent a child from learning and gaining confidence in themselves. Sometimes, in an effort to soothe our children and do anything we can to make them happy, our own behaviors may prevent our children from gaining independence and exercising their potential.
A common phrase you may hear at Post Oak is “help me to do it myself,” in a reminder that children are capable and full of potential. As an adult, we must allow them to take the lead on tasks and provide guidance when needed without overtaking the work.
One case that we see at the beginning of school transitions is sometimes children are upset about leaving their familiar home environment to start or even return to school. Instead of glossing over emotions, take time to acknowledge your child’s feelings and find sources that may bring them joy, like providing a favorite snack or recounting favorite experiences. (Think bedtime chats!) As always, be mindful of your tone and your trust.
Observation is a powerful tool for parents when their children are in new environments. At Post Oak, we invite parents to observe their children in the classroom to learn more about the environments and roles of the students and teachers. This knowledge helps empower parents to have detailed conversations with their children.