Starting a new preschool, or starting preschool for the first time, can be challenging for both the child and parents. Although children differ from each other, this milestone often comes with mixed emotions and some anxiety.
1. Start by preparing yourself for the separation, as well as the possibility that your child might be anxious, cry and dig in his or her heels. Children are different, and it is also possible that the child might just run in with confidence, making you feel spare. Children will notice their parents’ nonverbal cues, and if you are calm and assured, your child will feel safer. If you feel guilty or worried about leaving your child, he or she will probably sense that too.
2. Ease your child’s fears by visiting the preschool with him or her, to meet the teacher and become familiar with the environment. This is a great chance to meet your child’s teacher and ask questions about routines and common activities. You can introduce some of these routines and activities at home if possible, so they become even more natural.
3. Talk to the child about going to school. Make a ritual of preparing and packing their special school bag with their personal stuff. Put something on or in the bag that can serve as a memory link to you and home.
4. Establish a relationship with the child’s teacher and other important caregivers at the school so that you can share your intimate knowledge of the child’s routines and the special things you do to meet your child’s needs. Share tips on routine, eating, hydration, sleeping, toilet, and nappy routines, as well as anything else you consider important. Ask for a daily discussion during the first week and as often as is needed afterward.
5. It often takes a bit of time for the child’s digestive system to adjust to differences in the diet at the school. Discuss changes in stools.
6. Most pre-schools have morning routines like circle time where children enjoy singing, dancing, and socialising. Make sure you drop them off in time for these, as it will help create new and enjoyable routines.
7. Preschool brings a lot of emotional and social challenges, as well as new learning for a child. You might notice this through changes in behavior like talking less, slight stuttering, going back to previous self-soothing tactics like thumb sucking, clinging to you, or the child turning away from activities that were previous favourites. While you and the teacher should keep an eye on these behaviours, they are not unusual and should disappear naturally as your child adjusts.
8. On the first day of school, calmly reintroduce the teacher and other caregivers to your child, then step back to allow the teacher to begin developing a relationship with your child. Your endorsement of the teacher will show your child that he or she will be happy and safe in the teacher’s care.
9. Saying goodbye is difficult! If your child clings to you or refuses to participate, try to avoid getting upset as this will only upset your child more. Once you have said a loving goodbye to your child, leave promptly. As tempting as it may be, sneaking out and leaving without saying goodbye can make some kids feel abandoned. A long farewell, on the other hand, might only reinforce a child’s sense that a preschool is a bad place. A consistent and predictable farewell routine (for example, see you later alligator) can make your leaving easier. Keep in mind that most kids do well after their parents leave!
10. Kids adjust to the change at their own pace, some needing a little extra time to feel comfortable and excited about school. Your patience, reassurance, and consistency will help them to make the transition easier.