A Letter to Gan Parents - 2020/2021
Due to the coronavirus, the opening of this school year will be different from other years. The new reality is challenging for all of us, parents in particular. The beginning of a school year provides children with new learning and social opportunities, and the potential to develop new interests. All of these are important for growth, development, and personal resilience. Starting a new year of gan naturally evokes excitement and apprehension, especially for children and parents who are entering the education system for the first time.
Teachers will soon be sending a letter with information about gan procedures during the first days (staggered starts, duration of the school day, date of the parents' meeting, etc.).
This letter provides recommendations which may help you and your children to prepare for starting gan during the corona era:
Preparing to start gan:
· Encourage your child’s curiosity about gan and stimulate discussion - tell your children that in gan they can play, do activities, meet friends, and have fun. Explain who will accompany them to gan. Talk about the teacher who will greet them and the other staff who will welcome them. Tell your children that they can always approach the grown up in the room for help with any issue. Emphasize that you trust them and reinforce the idea that they go to gan because they are big. It is highly recommended to contact a child who will attend the same gan and get to know them (this can also be done virtually). Ask your children how they feel about starting gan. Encourage them to express all their emotions: anticipation, frustration, apprehension, joy and more. Emphasize the positive and convey messages of confidence. Help your children identify what can help them when things are difficult, for example: drawing, looking at a book, hugging a stuffed animal, jumping in place.
· Become familiar with the environment and the gan building - Becoming familiar with the external environment of the gan will assist in your children's adjustment. Examine the gan environment together - be aware of buildings, colors, smells, and sounds that you encounter on the walk to gan. Show the children the gan building from the outside and the entrance gate. Explain that because of corona you will say goodbye at the entrance, where they will meet the staff.
· Sleep schedule: Before starting gan, it is important to help your children develop good sleeping habits. Their sleep schedule during the school year will be different from that during vacation. As for young children who may be used to taking a midday nap, it is important to get them used to a continuous day of activity.
· Practicing independence: Transitioning to gan involves challenging children to function more independently. Prepare your children by encouraging them to pick out their clothes in the evening before bed. Depending on the age of your children, practice putting on clothes (without laces or buttons), putting on shoes, opening and closing their backpack, etc.
· Hygiene - It is important to help your children practice independence regarding using the bathroom, according to their age and abilities. Examples include taking off and putting on pants, wiping, and washing hands. It is not recommended to start the process of toilet training during the transition to a new classroom.
Adjustment and separation processes:
Adjusting to gan in the days of corona adds additional challenges. The gan staff is prepared to help the children get acclimated. It is important to remember that young children see you as a source of resilience, and they notice your concerns. It will help the children to feel secure if they see that you have faith in them and in the gan staff. Some children will experience separation anxiety on the first few days, and some may have additional difficulties, such as bathroom related accidents, difficulty sleeping, expressions of anger, etc. These behaviors are natural, and in most children, they will pass as soon as they become familiar with the gan staff and environment. Parents know their children - they have a sense of how long it takes them to adjust to a new place, and what helps them overcome their difficulties. We have updated the staff on these things. Here are ideas that may help in the separation process:
* It is recommended that the children walk to gan on their feet as opposed to being carried - separating is more difficult if the child is in your arms. This sends the message that your child is mature and independent.
* Use a short sentence to tell your children that you are leaving: "I am going now, and I will pick you up soon at the end of the day", you can add: "When I come back I would love to hear about your day in gan".
* A separation routine may help - you and your children can work together to choose a phrase or sequence of movements that will be your separation routine. You can practice this at home when you separate from your children to go out.
* If your children are sad or crying, it is important to validate their feelings: “I see that this is difficult for you. Sometimes it is hard to say goodbye. I am sure that you will have a good day in gan.” Return to your short sentence, “I am going now, and I will pick you up soon at the end of the day.
* It is important that the separation be short - once you have said goodbye and addressed the children’s feelings, it is important to leave, even though it will be difficult. Do not ask the children if you can go - the answer will likely be "no"! Prizes and gifts, as well as threats ("If you do not say goodbye nicely, then .."), are not recommended. Once you leave, do not come back even if you hear the child crying, as this can be confusing to the child and make things even more difficult. If necessary, and if approved by the teachers, you can consider picking up a child early.
* Transitional object - If necessary, consult with the gan teacher about the possibility of bringing an object from home which may help the child to relax on the first days. This may be especially important for 3-year-olds.
Pick up and discussion after gan:
* Be sure to come on time to pick up your children.
* Ask the children how they felt in gan. Praise them for their coping skills and tell them that you are proud of them. If necessary, explain that sometimes it takes time to get used to a new place and that gan is a good place for them.
* Remind them that they will go back to gan tomorrow. Go over the process - where will you say goodbye, what will be the separation routine. Ask your children if there is anything else that can help them say goodbye easily.
Remember that you are not alone:
The gan staff will assist you and your children in the adjustment process. Regular communication, trust, and cooperation between the parents and the educational staff will give your children a sense of security. It is important to update the gan director on any changes that occur in your home as well, especially in connection to the coronavirus (home isolation, illness, changes in work schedule, etc.). Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. The gan director can assist you and/or refer you to the relevant parties who can help, including psychological services.
The new reality is challenging for all of us, but together we will succeed in providing your children with a sense of protection and capability. Your cooperation is extremely significant for effective adjustment in this unique school year.
Wishing you a successful and healthy school year,
Dr. Barbara Asch, Director of the Educational Psychological Services of Efrat
And the Psychological Services Team of Efrat