5 Tips for Making the Preschool Transition Easier
My daughter started preschool a few weeks ago. Yes Moms and Dads, the years do fly by that quickly. The first day, my 2 year-old didn’t even bat an eyelash as we left her playing with the myriad of toys that her teacher laid out. We breathed a sigh of relief but her teacher cautioned us that kids her age usually start being tearful on the second day, once she’s learned that she will be left there by her parents. And it was true. M. spent her next few classes crying “on and off” according to her teachers. We took this to mean she cried all day (well, 1/2 day, as shes’ only there for 3 hours). Here is what we would do differently and what are we doing now.
Easing the Transition to Preschool
- Visit the classroom before your child begins. This allows your child to meet other children, and feel familiar with the surroundings without the stress of leaving them. Make several visits. Point out their teacher and have them learn their teacher’s names. Introduce them to at least one other child they look to be compatible with. This can greatly reduce the separation anxiety many children feel on the first day of school. I only made one pre-visit and I wished I had made more. Of course, make sure that the visits are okay with the teacher first.
- Make school an upbeat topic. Don’t add to your child’s stress by falling apart thinking how much you’ll miss her and join her in her tears. Point out all the things she’ll be learning. I keep telling my daughter that school will help her grow smarter. I also point out all the friends she’ll make. For now, she tells me that “I don’t want to play with the kids!”…but I’ve been assured that her attitude will change.
- Say good-bye and tell him you’ll be back. Don’t sneak away as this can really traumatize your child. When you promise you’ll be back and you do come back, he will gradually learn that it’s okay to be left there, and okay to have fun, because Mommy and Daddy will return.
- Don’t sneak back in. You’ll then have to start all over again with the tears, the good-byes, etc. Let them finish the day and only come back if the school asks you to return.
- Let them have their comfort object at school. This particularly stressful time is not the time to try to wean them from their security items – a paci, a patch of their blankie, or a favorite doll. Unless the school has a policy of no bringing toys from home, let her have something comfortable to hold on to at school. My daughter keeps her Boo doll from Monsters, Inc.
Most important of all, stay the course.
It’s hard to send your child off when they’re not so willing to go to school, but remember all the reasons you sent them there in the first place. Ideally, you’re sending them to a school with a good reputation, and you’ve done your homework in that regard. Now it’s time to recall why preschool is good for them. For my daughter, she is an only child, with no cousins nearby, and I wanted to make sure she is well-socialized. We already went to gym class and dance class together, but I felt she needed more exposure to other children. The extra hours in the two 1/2 days she goes also affords me time to work out, and pursue other non-toddler related interests. Hopefully, in a few weeks, I can report a child who’s eager to go to school.