Entering preschool can be one of the most frightening transitions for children. And let’s face it, parents sometimes have a hard time, as well. This might be the first time we let our children out of our care and entrust their safety and well-being to a complete stranger.
However, as scary as it can be for a child to be without a parent during the day, preschool offers many benefits, both educationally and socially. And fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to help your child adjust to preschool.
Provide Comforting Reminders
Preschool will likely be the first time your child is away from you during the day. With this change of daytime caregiver, your child may latch onto you when you are desperately trying to leave and get on with the rest of your day.
He wants to stay with you. One way you can help him make the transition easier is by giving him reminders before you leave. If it is his first day, tell him–repeatedly if necessary–that you will be back at the end of the day.
Your child needs the security of knowing that you will be coming back. If you can, and if he understands, tell him a specific time that you will be back or a general time of the day if the specific time might vary.
After his first day, you could remind him of his schedule. Run through everything that he has to do before the day is over, and tell him that soon after he does everything for the day, you will be there to pick him up.
Also, remind him of how much fun he has when he is at school and how his friends are waiting to play with him. Little reminders like these can help your child adjust to preschool by showing him that he is safe and wanted at school.
Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Your child may cry during her first day of preschool. She is going to be sad that you are not there and scared that you are no longer with her for a good part of her day.
Don’t become frustrated if your child is the only one crying or throwing a fit as you are trying to leave. She is just scared and in need of attention at that moment. You can help her by first validating her feelings.
Tell her that it is okay to feel sad when you are gone. Let her know that it is normal to be scared when she is in a new place. You might tell her that even adults can feel sad or scared when they are in a new place.
Once she knows that you understand how she is feeling you can help her calm down. Encourage her to take a few slow, deep breaths. When she has calmed down you can remind her of the fun she will have during the day and that you will be back later to pick her up. Tell her you will want to hear all about the exciting day she has had when you pick her up.
And if she starts crying again when you turn to leave, don’t repeat the process, as she will learn that is a way to keep you there longer. Let one of the preschool teachers take her and have her wave goodbye to you as you leave. She may cry for a few minutes, but she will soon be having fun with her new friends.
Attend Family Nights
Like many grade schools, your preschool may also offer family nights, ranging from open houses to math nights. These family events are a great way to help your child adjust to preschool.
Open houses give you and your child the opportunity to meet the teacher and see the classroom. Your child can familiarize himself with the new people and environment that he will be a part of in the near future.
Other family nights during the year are a great way for your child to get to know his classmates and teachers in a setting outside of the class and to strengthen the bond he has with them. Attending family nights will also allow you to learn more about the school and what your child is doing throughout the year.
You will also have the opportunity to meet other parents at family nights and get to know more about their families. You can then share some of what you learn with your child to help him feel more comfortable around his teachers and classmates.
Is Your Child Still Struggling to Adjust to Preschool?
If your child still seems to be having a tough time separating from you during the preschool drop-off after a week or two, please give us a call. One of the professional youth counselors at Keri Powell Therapy would be happy to meet with you and your child to help you navigate this tough transition.