Preschool is a time for a lot of new beginnings for a young child. A school is a brand-new environment filled with new sights, new sounds and new friends waiting to be met. For some young children, it might be the first experience of a structured day in their young lives.
It’s also an adjustment period for parents as well, especially for those sending their children off to school for the very first time. Here are some tips to help make the transition into a preschool environment manageable and pleasant for all parties.
• Establish a consistent morning routine and stick with it. Change can be scary, but consistency helps a child feel safe and provides an additional level of comfort during the period of adjustment. Even in preschool, arriving late can throw off a student’s entire day, and after repeated offenses, it can even have a negative impact on the child’s education and classroom experiences. Find a route to school and a travel time that allows for a comfortable drop-off window without too much downtime, which may result in a child becoming antsy or even exhausted in the middle of the day.
• Parents, pick your battles. Does allowing your child to wear a Halloween costume in April or to wear the same tutu over her pants every day mean arriving to school on time, happy and excited to learn? Then embrace it. A favorite hat or pair of sparkly boots might be the security blanket that boosts a child’s self-confidence enough to get them through the day, and show off their self-expression to peers or new friends. Don’t worry about what teachers or staff might think. In fact, if a child comes to school in the same outfit every day, the teacher will likely assume that it’s their favorite – and likely sympathize with the parent who has to wash it over and over again.
• Provide a nutritious breakfast. Not all preschools are able to have fresh produce or veggies at snack time, meaning that children can end up indulging in processed foods like chips or cookies. A protein-rich breakfast can provide a child with the energy needed to play and learn without distraction or discomfort. Foods filled with vitamins and nutrients can also help keep kids full longer, making them less likely to binge on empty calories at snack time and fall victim to a sugar crash or midday-meltdown.
• If your child is screaming and crying at drop-off time, don’t cave in and pull them away from school. Give them a hug, a kiss and be on your way. It’s hard to leave a child in distress but prolonging a goodbye will only make things worse for both sides. Teachers are also professionals that have been trained to comfort children and know how to engage them to help distract from any temporary feelings of anxiety or homesickness. For parents, don’t feel discouraged if a child has a tantrum about being away for the first time. It’s a common occurrence, and chances are, a lot of other parents and teachers at drop-off have seen outbursts before and will not be judgmental. For the child, a consistent drop-off routine can help them learn what to expect on a daily basis until saying goodbye every morning and coming home every afternoon becomes a normal occurrence.
• If there is something stressful or out of the ordinary in your child’s life at home – such as a new sibling, a recent move or the loss of a pet – consider sharing the information with the teacher. Doing so can help the teacher be sensitive to the needs of your child and be more sympathetic to possible changes in attitudes or behaviors fueled by at-home situations.
• On the way home, talk about school. Ask a child about their day, what they learned and if they made any new friends. Encouraging your child to talk about their experiences and offering positive feedback in response to good news or new accomplishments will help get them excited about returning to the classroom the next day.