Written by: Natalie Fuertes
Each year around this time, parents may begin to see a variety of behaviors in their young children that are associated with a new routine. Don't worry, and try to keep your cool - these behaviors are completely normal and generally not long lasting:
Changes in sleeping habits
Some children may begin to experience nightmares, have frequent nights awakenings, or have difficulty getting to sleep at night. Nap schedules may be disrupted as well.
Some tips on dealing with these changes:
Establish bedtime rituals and routines that suit their school schedule and keep them as intact as possible during this period.
It's important to reassure children that you are, and will continue to be, available to them, but that “nighttime is for sleeping”.
Many children experience an increased need for sleep and/or quiet during this time because of the challenging routine of the school day. If your child seems fatigued, keeping playdates and outside activities to a minimum during this time may help.
Increased anger and aggression towards parents, caregivers, and/or siblings
Often, children will get through the school day with no trouble, but will fall apart at pick-up time or when you arrive home from work. When there are younger siblings, they may even take the brunt of the older child’s anger. This is a typical reaction to separation and to the increased demands of the group classroom experience.
Some tips on dealing with these changes:
Be reassuring. Remind your child how proud you are that they are able to stay at school and appreciate their accomplishments.
Accept that you and your family will experience much of the "fall out" from this experience because you are the ones with whom your child feels safest.
Increase in toilet accidents and other signs of “regression”
Again, this is typical and should not be treated seriously. Try not to react negatively, but be supportive and give positive reinforcement when deserved. In most cases it will disappear quickly.
Increased testing of rules and routines at home
Learning new routines at school may cause your child to test boundaries at home. Trial and error is the way in which young children learn the rules, as well as when and where they apply. Be patient and help your child know what your at-home rules and expectations are.
Changes in behavior
Your child may be trying out new behaviors in response to their new classroom environment. Some of these reactions to socialization you will find positive (a new interest in potty training), while others you may not (hitting, teasing, etc). It is not uncommon for children who have typically behaved one way to make a “sudden” turnaround. We call this “trying on hats”.
Your child may be observing how their classmates react in certain situations, and may be testing you to see how you will react in turn. Remember that testing is not rebellion, but how children learn rules. Continue to help your child know what your expectations for behavior are and accept that these may differ from those of their classmates. Be assured that your child is only trying out these new behaviors and that their personality will not change as a reaction to school.
Attempts at independence at home
In the classroom, there are many opportunities for independence. Children wash their own hands, set-out snack, make the announcement for clean-up, lead the class to the playground, etc. The increased independence they feel at school may cause some signs of rebellion at home.
Remember that independence is what young children are striving towards, so choose your battles. Give choices whenever possible and allow extra time in your schedule to make room for your child’s attempts at dressing themselves, walking to
and from school without the stroller, etc.
Increase in colds and other illnesses
The cool Fall weather, coupled with the classroom “germ pool” may cause your child to get sick more frequently, so monitor your child for symptoms. A child who does not feel well will gain little from the experience of being at school, so get ready for lots of TLC in these cooler months.
Becoming a member of a group, learning new routines, and adapting to new adults is a challenging task for young children. Expect to see one or more of these reactions in the next several weeks. Be aware that some change in behavior is normal and age appropriate, and in most cases is not long lasting. Your child’s coaches are eager to be your resources. Talk to us about any changes you see at home and please reach out to us if you have special concerns, now or at any time throughout the year. We are here to give guidance and support!