As we are aware, “children at risk of experiencing vulnerability also tend to have more complex support needs when experiencing early years transitions” (Department of Education, Victoria, 2019).
When planning transitions to school, the most effective way to support a child during this process is to work positively and collaboratively with them, their family, the school and the community they reside in.
It is important to have ongoing conversations with the child about the fact that they will be going to school in order to help prepare them mentally and emotionally for the upcoming transition. This signals to the child that change is about to occur, is positive, exciting (and maybe a little bit scary!) and that caring adults will continue to support them even as some of the kinder relationships come to an end.
Here are a few ideas to try – these work for most children, but are particularly useful for children whose experiences of trauma may make the transition to school more frightening.
For children who have experienced significant trauma, this signaling of what is coming can help promote a sense of safety and reduce their fear about the change from kinder to school.
Educators can draw on existing knowledge about a child to help predict how a child may react to a big transition, such as starting school. They can help a child build on their existing strengths, coping strategies and resilience throughout the year. Some effective ways to support children who have experienced trauma during early years transitions can be “through the implementation of resilience programs, trauma healing activities, providing clear routine and structure, providing safe spaces for children and their families, and developing strong interpersonal relationships based on trust and mutual respect” (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2009).
Educators can work in partnership with families to help support a child to feel prepared, calm and positive about transitioning to school. Through strong relationships and role modelling, educators and families can co-create a positive narrative about this transition in a child’s life.
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