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Going to school for the first time is probably
the biggest single social step your child will ever take. He is suddenly
confronted by an amazingly expanded world of people and relationships and
ventures into this expanded world more or less on his own. How do you help your
child make the transition from home to school?

When your child is a toddler you begin to
establish the idea he is going to go to school. You read to him and tell him he
will learn to read when he goes to school. You point out the school as you
drive by and tell him he will be going there when he gets old enough. You talk
with enthusiasm about going to school, when you went to school, and when he is
going to school. If possible, you take him to school activities, ask what kinds
of things he wants to learn when he gets to school, and so on. On the other
hand, you avoid conversation about how lonely he will be at school, or how nice
it is to be your baby and still be at home, or how it would be nice if he were
to stay little forever. Yes, simply establishing the expectation your children
will enjoy being at school, and it is a really exciting time in their life will
go a long way toward eliminating difficulties in the transition from home to

More needs to be done, though. Your child needs
to be able to separate himself from you. This comes from participating in
pre-school, spending time in daycare as needed, being encouraged to play at the
neighbor’s once in a while, being taken to church school and left with the
other children, being left with baby-sitters – intentionally put in situations
where he learns to deal with and interact with other people, both adults and

For children who have had a wide variety of
social and educational opportunities and experiences, the transition from home
to school is not particularly difficult. They have already made a lot of little
social steps into the world, have had experience with being able to return
home, have seen relationships with you do not suffer as a result of other
social contacts and involvements, and have learned quite a lot about the give
and take of relationships, outside of the family. They have already learned
something about making friends and choosing playmates, about accepting
supervision from other adults. Your children come to see home as a haven, a
source of security and renewal from which they can move out to experience and
explore and to which they can return for safety and security.

What if your children have not developed this
orientation by the time they are to go to school? They have to go to school,
ready or not. If necessary, they should be physically taken, placed in a
classroom, and left there. This may seen cruel, but they have to go to school.
Good parenting does not try to compensate for errors of the past. It starts
with your child now, and moves on.

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