So you’ve successfully signed your child up for preschool. The summer holiday has passed by and now you have that slight tingling in your stomach. That first day at school is probably one the most important moments in your and your child's life, and it might not be easy–both for the child and for the parent. It's one of those moments when you realise just how quickly time goes by. How could something that was a cute tiny baby just seconds ago grow up so fast? And all of the sudden they don't need your 24/7 attention?! How can you prepare for this bittersweet moment without any unnecessary tears and stress?
This is a moment that you have been preparing your child for. Since they got accepted to preschool, you’ve already taught them all they need to know! You taught them how to eat with a spoon, how to put on clothes, how to tie their laces (okay, they might still be struggling with that, but hey, they're getting there). One of the biggest accomplishments was saying bye-bye to diapers and hello to the grown-up potty. So why all the butterflies when thinking about whether or not your child will do fine without you? After all, you've pretty much spent all your time together up until now. The important thing to remember is to trust yourself and your child – despite the they'll-do-better-when-I'm-there feeling that might still be sitting in your head.
In order to avoid unnecessary stress for your child it's important to talk to them well in advance. Spending time in a different building and on a different schedule should not catch them by surprise. It's important to inform your child about what's ahead, how will it look there and what they’ll do there – they'll be playing, going outside, eating snacks, having lunch, and napping. Give them enough information to mitigate the fear of the unknown.
Talk about preschool with excitement and joy – this excitement will spread to your child, and they'll be more willing to go and will get used to it more quickly. If there's an option to visit the preschool in advance, have a look at what it's like, meet the toys and teachers, it'll certainly help as well. Getting started in a new place with new people can be intimidating. If your child's preschool entry overlaps with you starting at a new job, it's a good idea to tell them you're excited to start there. Again, this attitude will manifest in your child too.
The big day is here and you can't shake off the feeling it's you going to preschool for the first time. Try and maintain your poise, because all of your feelings, emotions, and fears imprint on your child in stressful situations. To avoid stressful situations, head out well in advance rather than doing a last-minute rush. Go over everything with your child once more, tell them what's ahead of them. Once you've arrived, walk them through all the necessary places. Show them where their locker is, where they'll be putting off their stuff for the time they're attending. Put away all the things they'll be needing together. If they can manage it, it's good to let them do it themselves.
If your child is anxious about going to preschool, give them a “talisman” or good-luck charm, such as a toy they like. It can act as a reminder of home and safety and will provide them with much needed bravery. Don't forget to remind them who's going to pick them up and when (after lunch, after naptime). However, it's important to keep the promises you make, as otherwise your child may lose trust and the days may become stressful and tough to get through: they might start thinking you've forgotten about them.
When the time comes to say goodbye, don't prolong it – that's what most teachers will recommend. Saying goodbyes is important, but it often helps to have a some sort of special method: wave out of the window, blow three kisses, etc. But repeating over and over ‘So I'll be going now’ and ‘Ok, but this time I'm really going’ while actually not going anywhere is much more stressful than a simple goodbye. It's tough to leave a sobbing child in the hands of a ‘stranger’, but you have to trust that the teachers will take good care of them. As a teacher, I know that kids are easily excited by new things and the second the door closes behind the parents the cries and tears are a thing of the past.
Kids should take their time adapting and if your work schedule allows it, try and not leave your child at the preschool the entire day. Pick them up after lunch, or enlist the aid of grandmas, grandpas, or relatives. Always talk to your kids about what happened during the day, what games they played, and whether they made some new friends. Each of us is an individual and we adapt at our own pace. Give them the space and time to find new friends and become part of the collective. Don't tell them that other kids don't cry anymore or compare them to their peers. Don't be afraid of talking to the teachers as well; share your worries or uncertainties. If there’s a problem, you'll be able to solve it together in no time!
Author: Alžběta Poskočilová, Educational Specialist at Lipa Learning
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