Two of my earlier blog posts focus on helping children with separation anxiety and with the transition from preschool to kindergarten (“Lift and Separate: Separation Anxiety in Young Children”; and “Movin’ On Up: Transitioning to Kindergarten, with Tips for Easing Anxiety,” both from May 19). It has been a while since I have managed any new blog posts, and the reason for that is also the reason that I realized I needed to revisit those earlier posts and heed my own words.
After a career spanning 36 years as a preschool teacher and administrator, I recently closed the preschool program that I founded 28 years ago. This was a difficult decision to make, but it was the right one. As I sent off my final group of kids to the adventure of kindergarten, I immersed myself in the process of sorting, organizing, storing, liquidating, and disposing of the wealth of materials, supplies, and furnishings that we had accumulated over those years. This was a huge, daunting task, and one that pretty much consumed most of my time for over a month, culminating in a public auction that was both gratifying and difficult. After deciding what to take home (items both sentimental and practical), what to keep in storage (business records and picture books), or what I would need to have to continue providing professional development (teaching materials and, again, picture books), I watched as a sizable group spent 3 ½ hours on a steamy summer evening scrutinizing, considering, and bidding on the rest.
When the dust had settled, 90% of what we had put up was in the hands of others. Many of the bidders that evening were teachers or program owners/administrators, several were parents or grandparents, and the rest were mostly people who make a living selling good quality used toys and materials at flea markets. I was especially pleased to see so many of our educational materials find their way into the other preschool and care programs, including the hundreds of picture books that were still on the shelves.
As I sit here now, I can imagine the fun and learning that children are experiencing with the same items that our kids used for so long, and the separation is a little easier. There have been many times in the last several weeks when I have stopped to remember the advice I have given to countless parents when their child is facing a major transition, whether it’s going to kindergarten, moving to a new house, welcoming a new sibling, or saying good bye to someone who has passed on. The primary point of that advice has always been that change in difficult, but it is important to convey to your child that you believe he/she is strong enough manage that change, and to help them through it by providing love, support, and, most importantly, as much consistency as possible.
I am certainly no stranger to change, but this particular change was one of the more challenging I have confronted. Just as a child entering kindergarten experiences excitement and uncertainty, sadness and joy, and fear and hope, I, too, was experiencing many of the same feelings. I am fortunate to have many wonderful family members and friends to provide the love and support, but I realized that it would be up to me to provide the consistency. Since I am not stepping immediately into a full time job at another location, for me, consistency referred to a few key points: developing a routine and sticking with it; creating a space at home dedicated to the work I will be doing (i.e., writing, research, and the creation of professional development workshops); and being sure to remain mindful of and attentive to my emotional space.
Now that the school has been closed, the remaining stuff has been disposed of, given away, or stored, and the keys have been turned in, I am ready to begin kindergarten again with my eyes and heart open.