Back-to-School Blues

As we head into back-to-school season, it’s time to think about preparing your program for the departure of school-aged children.
Back to School Blues

The Ideas & Solutions blog is intended to provide a forum for the discussion of child care and early education issues and ideas. We hope to provoke thoughtful discussions within the field and to help those outside the field gain a better understanding of priorities and concerns.

Back-to-School Blues: Preparing for Children to Leave Your Program

Transitions are inevitable in early childhood education, but when your program cares for school-age children, you live and breathe transitions. Establishing a steady routine can be quite a struggle when everything is constantly changing — unless you find a way to make change a part of your routine.

As we head into back-to-school season, it’s time to think about preparing your program for the departure of school-aged children.

Losing these children from your program can take a toll on you and your staff, as well the other children you care for. Plus, a decrease in enrollment may cause financial struggles. Finding ways to prepare yourself for the various challenges that transitions bring can make them less daunting. 

Preparing Yourself

We develop bonds with the children we care for, and when they leave — whatever the reason — it can take an emotional toll on us. Here are some ways you can prepare yourself and your staff:

  • Ask for farewell letters, notes, or artwork to keep in a book.
  • Take pictures of the children to hang around the room or on a board.
  • Stay in touch with families for updates on how the children are doing.
Preparing Other Children

Just like adults, children form close bonds and relationships with one another, and they feel pain and sorrow when those bonds are broken. But when children understand what’s happening and have time to say goodbye, they can process their emotions and practice acceptance — skills they will need their whole lives. Here are some ways to help the younger children remaining in your program:

  • Talk about where the school-aged children are going.
  • Talk to each child individually about how they are feeling.
  • Plan a farewell party.
  • Create a book of pictures to put in your library area.
  • Hang pictures of the children who are leaving.
  • Encourage the families of the departing children to come back for a visit.
  • Plan events for former and current families to get together.
Preparing Financially

Adjusting to the loss in tuition from school-aged children leaving your program can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are always younger children who can take those spots.

If you’re looking to replace children heading off to school — or want to expand your program further — check out 12 Ways to Increase Enrollment in your Family Childcare Program from NAEYC for actionable ideas.

If you’re a child care center with a classroom reserved for school-aged children during the summer, you don’t want it to sit empty during the school year. One option is to use that room for a part-time preschool class that only attends a few hours a day. That way the room is still available for before- and after-school care.

Everyone handles change in different ways, so remember to stay flexible during the transition and offer a little extra empathy. Preparing yourself and the children in your program and creating a financial plan can prevent some of the struggles that come with big changes.

Change is a part of life. Make it part of your business plan.

For support, check out our free business resources and templates, get your business questions answered by experts, and consider joining the Program Administration Support Pathway, a free service focused on promoting solid business practices in child care environments.

  • Ashley Sias

    Child Care Health Consultant, Child Care Aware of Kansas