Starting preschool is one of the many exciting milestones of childhood. However, it can also be a stressful time for both children and parents, especially if it is your child’s first time going to school. However, if you take some steps to prepare yourself and your child for this new experience, you can ease some of the anxiety you both may have about starting preschool.
Keep everyone calm. It is natural for your child to express fear and anxiety about going to preschool and for you to be nervous, too. Talk to your child about going to preschool and what he will do there. If you have older children, children of friends, or nieces and nephews, have them share their stories with your soon-to-be preschooler. Try to keep these conversations casual so your child does not feel intimidated or overwhelmed.
Go for a visit. Find out if your child’s preschool has a visiting day or orientation for parents and children. This is an opportunity for you to talk with the teacher(s) about the preschool, daily activities, and anything else you may have questions about, and for your child to experience the preschool with you present.
Meet other preschoolers. If possible, organize a play date or two with children who will be in your child’s preschool class. You may already know families with children the same age as yours, or you might meet some when you visit the school. You can also ask the preschool if there are any families close by to you or new to the school, as well. This way, not every face in the classroom will be unfamiliar when your child goes to preschool the first day, and you can find other parents to share experiences with.
Get into a routine. Start to adjust your child’s sleeping and eating schedules slowly in the weeks leading up to the first day of preschool. This may help smooth the transition and make her more comfortable when school finally starts and you have to be out the door at a certain time. You can even create a schedule during the day similar to that your child will experience in preschool to get her used to the structure of switching activities and having set times for lunch, snack, nap, etc.
Use books to prepare. Include some children’s books about the first day of school along with the other books you and your child read together. This will give your child the opportunity to ask questions and express any fears he may have. You can ask his new teacher(s) or the librarian at your public library for recommendations.
Practice saying goodbye. Create a ‘goodbye routine’ with your child before the first day of school and talk about what will happen. This can be something as simple as a kiss or a hug, a secret handshake, or a special way of saying goodbye. When it is time for you to leave, make a point of saying good-bye even though it may be difficult for both of you. Sneaking out of the classroom when your child is not looking will make the transition far more difficult for her and she may become scared and upset when she realizes that you are gone.
Give it time. Leave plenty of time on the first day to arrive at school and be prepared to spend some time in the classroom with your child. Some preschools even request that parents stay in the classroom on the first day with their child, or at least for part of the day. Anticipate some ups and downs the first few weeks of school as your child gets adjusted. Even children are allowed to have bad days.