As a parent you may have two big feelings about your child starting preschool. You may feel excited about this new milestone, the fun your child will have and the friends he will make. At the same time you may feel sad that your little one will be venturing out into the world without you. These are normal emotions. Your child may also have two big feelings about starting preschool, too. He may feel excited to be a big kid, but worried about saying goodbye to mommy and daddy. These are also normal emotions. There are some preparations you can do to get ready for this big day. Be careful not to overdo the preparations, however. You don’t want your child to feel more worried than excited. Here are some tips.
1. Read stories about going to preschool and about separation.
Examples include: Maisy Goes to Preschool, What to Expect at Preschool, How do Dinosaurs Go to School?, Will You Come Back for Me?, Hello! Good-Bye!, Franklin Goes to School, Owl Babies, and The Kissing Hand.Point to the characters in the books and ask how the different characters might feel.
2. Schedule a visit to the school.
Seeing the classroom, meeting the teachers, playing with the toys can make the transition easier.
3. Schedule a playdate with one of the other children who will be attending the same preschool.
4. Play “preschool” at home with your child.
Take turns playing roles of teacher, child, mommy. Act out saying “Hello” to the teacher or “Good-Bye” to the mom. Act out other activities your child will be exposed to in preschool.
5. Develop a “good-bye drop off” ritual and a “pick-up” ritual.
Don’t sneak off. Keep the drop off short and sweet. Most preschools will offer a transition program to help with separation and involve parents as part of the process.
6. Answer your child’s questions honestly
Use developmentally appropriate language. Keep your explanation concrete, offering accurate descriptions of what the classroom will look like, what teachers do, and what happens in a typical school day.
Young children are very literal and their concerns about new experiences center on their basic needs: “Will I be taken care of?” “Who will pick me up?”.
7. Avoid projections that might promise more than preschool may realistically be able to deliver.
Things like: “Preschool will always be fun”. (Sometimes it won’t be). “All children will be your friend”. (Some will be, some will not). “You will always love school”. (There will be days you won’t).
8. Check with the preschool to see if your child can bring:
A transitional object such as a favorite blankie, stuffed animal, or photo book containing pictures of her family members.
9. Stay positive when you say “good-bye”
Your child is watching your reaction to figure out how he should feel. If you appear worried or upset, he may feel more fearful.
10. Build extra time into your morning routine
So you can spend a few minutes at school to help him get engaged as opposed to rushing off. Do a “practice run” in the morning every day the week before preschool starts so your child is already accustomed to waking up early and getting out the door at the appropriate time.
Making a picture chart can help if you hang it up where your child can easily refer to it. Find pictures that demonstrate: 1) getting out of bed; 2) getting dressed; 3) eating breakfast; 4) brushing teeth; 5) getting into the car seat.
With all the right preparations, there will still be adjustments once preschool begins. Give it time. Enlist teacher’s help if the separation becomes difficult. Good luck to you as you embark on this exciting journey with your child!