ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

School days...school days...

Oh, that first day of school -- hearts pounding with excitement, anticipation -- it's a landmark day for every American child. Most parents in the city are probably scrambling this month to get all those details in place so their children can mak...

Oh, that first day of school -- hearts pounding with excitement, anticipation -- it's a landmark day for every American child.
Most parents in the city are probably scrambling this month to get all those details in place so their children can make that first trip to school smoothly.
And day care centers are in transition, too. Many of their children will not only be going to kindergarten for the first time, but they'll be leaving day care as well.
"We're really going to miss these kids," said Nancy Thomas, executive director of Happy Time Day Care Center in Lincoln Park. "It's hard to let go."
That's probably not surprising for this big-hearted woman whose mother, Delores Anderson, founded the day care center a generation ago.
Many of the 70-plus children who go to this day care center have been there since they were toddlers or younger, so when the children leave to go to kindergarten, they'll leave their daytime "family."
Getting her charges ready for their first day in school didn't start last week, or even last year, Thomas said.
"We start at birth," she said. "I believe somewhere along the way, people got the wrong interpretation of what to do with young children to get them ready for school. They only focus on the cognitive part of it -- do they know their numbers? Do they know their colors? Do they know their letters? Yet, in kindergarten, they say the most important part is the social skills, and that's what we focus on. It's our job to help these children form as unique individuals."
Certainly, the children have lots of opportunities to learn their letters and colors and how to work computers, as well as drawing and singing and all those other activities that teach youngsters how to live in the modern world. Thomas makes sure the kids have a busy, active day at Happy Time.
But the youngsters also have plenty of time to play and learn how to interact with others.
"We focus first on building trusting relationships so they feel safe," Thomas said. "Brain research tells us that children need attachments to primary caregivers to grow and develop. So that is our primary focus -- to help children feel safe, loved and nurtured."
Thomas said she and her staff also focus on teaching respect for others. She said she surveys parents and asks them what is the most important thing for their children to learn.
Over and over, the parents say they want their children to learn respect, Thomas said. Respect comes through listening to others and resolving conflicts peacefully, she said.
"We need to view children as having rights and help them understand what democracy is all about by giving them a voice," she said.
{IMG2}
So when there is a conflict between children, Thomas and her staff immediately work toward mediating the dispute, making sure each child has a chance to tell their side of the story.
The resolution of the conflict is also left up to the children. "We allow them to do the thinking," she said. "Teaching respect and logic analysis is just the basis of thinking skills."
Thomas said making the transition to kindergarten could be stressful for many children. They'll be in a strange place with different teachers and, more likely than not, with a whole new group of children to get to know.
To help parents and children, Thomas said she provides a pamphlet to the parents that describes their child for his or her new teacher. She said she also offers consultations about what schools might be best for the child given their skills and strengths.
One thing for sure -- every child is a natural student and should embrace their new school quickly, she said.
Jesse Wipson, 4, inadvertently illustrated this himself as he struggled to put on his painting shirt the other day.
Suddenly, it settled over his shoulders, and he said, "Ah ha! I did it," and flashed Thomas a big smile.
She grinned back. "Yesterday, he couldn't do that," she said.
TIPS FOR PARENTS<
All summer long, your children cheerfully march off to camp and other activities, but now that school has started, they hold onto you for dear life when you drop them off in the classroom.
Back-to -school jitters can take many forms, especially for children going from preschool to kindergarten. The transition can be overwhelming for kids because more is expected of them and their days can be physically and mentally draining.
Here are some tips on how to help:
* Give them chances to talk about their feelings. Kids can't always put their emotions into words. You might start by reassuring them that their fears are normal. Don't make your child feel guilty for being afraid to let go.
* Encourage their independence in other areas, such as letting them pick out some of their new school clothes or school supplies. The confidence gains will spill over.
* Get your child's teacher involved. If the teacher can give a little extra TLC at the beginning of class or just after you leave, it can help them say goodbye to you.
* Watch your language. Part of a child's separation anxiety stems from worry that you won't be OK without them. Parents inadvertently feed into this fear -- "I am going to really miss you now that you're in school all day," they say, or, "I don't know what I'll do without you."
Instead, use positive comments: "It's so exciting you're growing up and getting ready for school now."
* Keep the parting short and sweet. Gently detach your youngster from you, give her a hug and slip out the door. If you prolong the goodbye you are giving the child the false hope that you will stay.
Rest assured that once you leave, your child will quickly rebound. Within minutes, most kids are perfectly fine and engaged in an activity.
Source: Family Life Magazine

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.