Building independence is a critical part of childhood. As your child grows and develops, they will demonstrate a desire to do things on their own. It may start with an instance that they tie their own shoes or carry their own backpack. Though their competencies and abilities may prevent them from fully completing these tasks, as parents and educational guides, we allow them to start the process, intervening when help is clearly needed or requested.
While the willingness to do for oneself manifests differently and at different times for each child, it starts to become increasingly evident as children cross into the second plane of development around the age of six. The transition into this plane starts as children move from the primary to the elementary environment, and is noted as a stage of growing mental independence. As such, it is critical that parents, guardians and caregivers thoughtfully navigate this transition with their children. Here are a few recommendations to support a smooth transition from the primary to elementary environment.
Start talking about the transition early.
Children in this stage of developmental advancement are less likely to experience emotional outbursts as a result of stress or unfamiliarity. Still, children preparing for a new environment are likely curious, and maybe even a bit apprehensive or hesitant. Luckily at this age, they are able to pose questions and hold back-and-forth conversations as they seek to better understand the world around them. Nurture this curiosity by posing questions about their feelings and opening yourself up to questions about their future environment. Talk with guides and educators at your school about the classroom structure, and articulate the differences and similarities between their current and future environment. In talking with you, your child can become increasingly aware of changes that are to come and assured that they are equipped to explore them.
Introduce them to their future guides.
If your school offers open houses or meet the teacher nights, take full advantage of these opportunities. One characteristic of this developmental plane is hero worship. Your child will start to admire and mimic behavior of adults or older children they trust. As a parent or guardian, you are likely one of their heroes, and seeing you interact warmly with a guide can create a sense of peace for your child. Ensure they see you talking cordially with the guide, asking questions to gain more information and incorporating recommendations the guide provides. All of this modeling behavior will create a framework for your child when they enter the environment.
Be prepared for the “why”?
At this age, you may need more preparation than your child! Students at this age are increasingly comfortable with learning, exploring and discovering. Since they’ve grasped nuances of the physical world around them, they are becoming interested in intellectual topics. At the same time, they’re developing their own sense of justice, and may be more concerned with what is “right” or “wrong.” As a caregiver, be prepared for difficult questions from your child. Consider your parenting principles and household beliefs, and discuss them with loved ones who also care for your child. You may be surprised by some questions that will soon come your way!