Negotiating the Transition: Parents' Experience of their Oldest Child's Transition to School
This study follows the lived experience of parents within six families during their oldest child's transition from early childhood centre to school. The aim was to understand the transition to school from a parent perspective in order that early childhood and school staff can better support families through their child's transition. A successful transition to school is frequently associated with later success in schooling. Research into children's transition has often focused on the child as an individual, with adults acting as informants about children's experiences. Parents have the unique position as the adults who are part of each of the three microsystems of home, early childhood centre and school, and therefore have an essential role in communicating between the microsystems and supporting their child's transition. This qualitative constructionist study interviewed parents one month before and one month after their oldest child started school, followed by a parent focus group. Each of the families in the study had existing theories of development and transitions which they combined with the information they obtained about school to plan and enact strategies to support their child's transition to school. The parents viewed school as a community to which they wanted their child and themselves to belong. They had some expectations of their role as a school parent; this identity was affected by the discourses of parents and teachers which they held and encountered, and by their interactions with people at school. The essence of these parents' experience was of negotiating the transition to school. There were two aspects to this: fitting in to an existing school culture; and attempting to adapt some aspects of the transition experience for their child by discussion with the teacher. Good communication, including feeling their point of view had been heard and also understanding the teacher's point of view, helped these parents to feel effective and valued in their role as school parents.