A child's first experience away from home can evoke feelings of anticipation and excitement but they can also elicit feelings of apprehension and fear. As adults, we encounter similar feelings when we are making changes in our daily routines. Remembering your mixed feelings when you returned to school or began employment can help you to understand how your child might feel on his/her first days at preschool. The start of preschool can be stressful for both parent and child. Your child may be worried about meeting new people, learning new things and being away from you. Parents worry about behavior, how they will fare, and if they will get the attention they need and deserve.
The best possible thing you can do for your child is prepare them. Show them that this new experience is a positive one.
You can take some steps to help your child get ready for preschool by supporting your child in the transitional period from home to preschool by:
l. Talking to your child about the fun he/she will have at preschool by making new friends, eating snacks, playing with toys, learning new skills, etc. Remember that even if they are feeling nervous or stressed about beginning preschool you should always try to be positive when discussing preschool with your child.
2. Allowing enough together time in the morning with each other.
3. Tell your child the teacher's name. Some of the stress involved is having to listen to a new adult.
4. Teach your child to be responsible for putting away his/her own toys and clothes and doing simple household tasks within his/her ability at home. Your child will be participating in helping clean up items at school.
5. Teach your child safety rules. He/she will learn to follow safety rules at school.
6. Make story time a daily routine when you snuggle up together and enjoy each other's company. Almost all of the popular cartoon characters have books about the first day of school. Make a special trip to the library or local bookstore and get some books related to the first day of school. It helps your child put the situation into perspective if they can identify with one or more of their favorite characters. After reading let your child ask questions or express concerns. They are looking to you for comfort and reassurance.
7. Make sure your child knows it is O.K. to ask questions. A lot of children worry about who they can turn to if they are unsure of something when in school. Let them know it is perfectly fine not to know something, and it is very important to ask questions. Stress to your child that we all have to ask questions sometimes, and that is the only way we can learn new things.
8. Stay consistent with morning routines and times and days attending as much as possible.
9. Don't be surprised if your child cries on the first day or delays to the second or third day when the newness wears off and realization hits that this is permanent. He/she may plead with you to not leave. Stay calm, and let your child know you will be back. Please do your best to not hover. Make the drop off to preschool as quick and painless as possible. If your child wants you to stay, give him/her a time limit. During your first week say you can only stay for five minutes and then give your child a kiss and a hug and leave. We have found that establishing an exact number of reasonable hugs and kisses helps keep the routine consistent and gives the child an exact time when you will be leaving. The routine is well established and there are no questions about how the routine will go. But you must stay consistent, even when your child begs for more and wants you to negotiate. It is often easier for teachers to settle your child into the setting without you there. Chances are, once you've gone your child will be fine. Sometimes it takes mom and dad being gone for a child to truly embark on the new experience. During your first week here I will e-mail you each morning and afternoon to fill you in on how things are going. I know it is sometimes harder on the parent than the child and I am there for both of you. I may even e-mail right away if your child seemed hysterical when you left to ease your anxiety.
"The first years last forever."