Settling in to Preschool
Talk about the things your child will do at preschool. For example, ‘Stella, do you remember we saw blocks at preschool? You’ll be able to build with them like you do at home’. You could look at photos of the preschool and talk about some of the things that are different from home, like the toilets and playground.
Follow your child’s lead with talking, so that your child feels comfortable talking about preschool but doesn’t hear about it too often. If your child doesn’t seem interested when you talk about preschool, don’t push the conversation. Keeping things low key can be a good idea too. If you say, ‘Isn’t it exciting that you’re starting or have started preschool?’, your child might start to feel more anxious because it sounds like a big deal. Here are some tips and strategies to help you and your child in the early days and weeks of starting preschool:
• Start gradually. Many preschools invite parents to stay for a while during the day in the early days. Speak with the preschool teacher and work out a plan that works for you, your child, and the preschool. It’s a good idea to tell your child how long you’re staying, so she doesn’t get a surprise when you leave.
• Establish some routines. Routines can help your child feel safe and secure, particularly when new things are happening. You could set up a routine for preschool mornings – for example, get up, have breakfast, clean teeth, get dressed, put on sunscreen, pack lunchbox and go. You could even make a chart with pictures showing the different steps in your routine.
• Develop a goodbye routine. Say goodbye to your child so that he knows you’re going, and tell him that you’ll pick him up at the end of the day. You could choose a special place to say goodbye, or an activity to do before you go. For example, ‘If you wave to me from that window, I’ll be able to see you,’ or ‘Which book will we read before I go?’ Say goodbye once and leave. Lots of goodbyes can be stressful for both you and your child.
• Communicate with the preschool teachers. Children get confidence from seeing warm, positive and friendly interactions between important people in their lives, like their parents and teachers. Good communication with your child’s teacher also helps you share relevant information and helps the teacher know how best to respond to your child.
For example, you might let the teacher know about things like grandparents visiting from overseas, your child’s favorite songs or books, or simple words in the language your family speaks at home.
• Celebrate achievements. Joining a new group, meeting new people, navigating a new environment, and learning new ways of doing things are big childhood accomplishments. You can build your child’s confidence and sense of competence when you celebrate these. For example, you could use descriptive praise when your child meets new people or tries something new. Or you could encourage your child to call a grandparent, aunt, or family friend to share her achievements.
• Have backup pick-up plans. Many preschool sessions finish at a specific time. If you tell your child you’ll be there at a specific time, it’s important that you’re there. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan so that if you’re delayed or there’s a problem, someone you and your child know and trust can be there to pick him up. If the person who normally picks up your child from preschool can’t make it, make sure the preschool teachers know who’s coming instead. The teachers will let your child know and ensure your child’s safety.
Tips to handle worries about starting preschool
Starting preschool can be exciting for your child. But anxiety and tiredness are normal too—there’s so much for your child to get used to. You might notice that your child isn’t eating as much or wants to sleep more. She might even seem less happy than normal.
Your child might be worried about finding friends, knowing what to do, or being separated from family. He might get upset when you leave him.
Your child might also worry about what you’ll be doing while she’s at preschool. Will you be doing something special, and will she be missing out?
• Let your child know what you’ll be doing while he’s at preschool. This can help reassure him that he’s not missing out, especially if you try to save his favorite activities for when he’s with you.
• Talk with your child about preschool routines. Toby Forward’s book The First Day of School is a good discussion starter if it’s hard to get your child talking.
• Talk to the teacher if your child gets upset when you leave her. Preschool teachers are experienced at helping children through separation and will have ideas to help you and your child.
• Ask the teacher about what might be worrying your child. The teacher can tell you what happens during the preschool day. Your child might be worried about using the toilets, eating the food the preschool provides, or finding his things. Discuss strategies to handle specific worries. For example, if your child is worried about food, you might be able to pack some familiar food. If using the toilets seems to be the problem, the teacher can help your child get used to them. Labeling your child’s things can help her keep track of them.
Your child Wants to Play Hooky: How to Handle It
Sometimes children’s excitement carries them through the first few days. But after a few days or weeks, the novelty wears off. You might notice that your child seems less keen about going to preschool.
One thing you can do in this situation is keep reacting positively to what your child does at preschool. This can help to spark his enthusiasm again.
Getting to know other families can help your child build friendships that will help her settle into preschool over the longer-term.
A predictable routine can also help your child realize that preschool is a regular part of his life now. But if your child’s anxiety persists, talk to the preschool teacher and your pediatrician for guidance.
Dealing with Your Own Feelings
Your child takes cues from you, so if you’re worried about preschool, she’ll pick up on this. You might be feeling worried about whether your child will fit in—will he find friends, feel comfortable, feel like he belongs at preschool, and be able to do what’s asked of him? If you show your child that you think she can manage at preschool, she’ll start to believe it too. Try not to let your child know about any worries you might have. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to other parents about how they’re doing this. Developing good communication with the preschool teachers can also help you overcome these kinds of worries. #
Courtesy of Nemours.