As families prepare to support their children as they enter school after an incredibly tumultuous year, it is important for educators to engage with families in new and innovative ways. In a typical year, educators know that the transition into school can be a stressful time and that supports are needed. This year calls for a new look at best practices to engage with families as they face a changing landscape with continually changing COVID-19 protocols, policies, and procedures. Families and educators often note that the parents are more concerned about the transition than the child, making it particularly important to take a whole family approach to supporting transitions. 

In order to support the transition process for children and their families, educators can engage in continued best practices with a new lens within the current environment.

  1. Use Technology to Connect: Create a video tour of your classroom for children and families to be able to watch at home. Speak through the video and take the viewer on a tour of the classroom, school hallways, bathrooms, or other areas of the school the children will experience.  The video will help children and families visualize the new school environment and offer them opportunities to talk about school as they prepare for the year.
  2. Keep Lines of Communication Open: Communication is a key aspect in any form of relationship building – and building a relationship with parents is key to a successful and smooth transition into school.
    1. Set up virtual meetings to learn about families. Use this as an opportunity to hear  about their experiences during the pandemic and specific family concerns or needs. It is also a time for relationship building to learn about the family and their goals for their children (both short term and long term). 
    2. Communicate often and with multiple modes. For example, once the school year starts, some families may prefer a paper newsletter or update of information each day while other families may prefer to receive information over the phone or email. Consider looking into digital applications so you can communicate with all parents at once to share happenings during the day, but also have access to communicating with parents individually. Ensure that these communications are available in a family’s preferred language. 
  3. Connect Adults to Support Children. Program administrators and directors can continue to build relationships with community providers in their area.  This can help expand and coordinate a families’ support networks and continuity across programs and services. 

The key for teachers to remember is that families have been, and continue to face multiple transitions. Transitions into school are typically challenging for children and families, so the past year with in-person learning, remote learning and multiple school and child care disruptions certainly adds complexity for families. It is also important to remember that many children enter early education programs for one year and educators can support families as they are transitioning in and out of programs within the same school year. So just as you are supporting the transition into a program, teachers are tasked with juggling how to prepare children and families to leave by the end of the school year. Educators and families can work together to support all of these transitions for their children and increasingly are using innovative new ways to be supportive. Our hope, as both researchers and mothers, is that the care and compassion that was seen early during the pandemic will continue as we navigate this upcoming school year. 

Annie George-Puskar, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education in the Division of Curriculum & Teaching and a mother of two. Her research focuses on the transition into preschool. Read her other blog post on transitions here

Kyle DeMeo Cook, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at St. John’s University, and a mother of three. Her research focuses on the transition into kindergarten. Read her other blog post on transitions here

Annie and Kyle were 2020 Early Career Scholars for the New York City Early Childhood Research Network