Starting preschool is a big step, and it can be a little scary for everyone, kids and parents alike. You may find yourself wondering whether your child is really ready, how they’ll get along with their teachers and classmates, how they’ll handle it when you leave them, and how easily they’ll adjust to the routines of preschool. These fears are all pretty normal, whether this is your first child or your third.
To help you and your little ones through the preschool transition, we have some been-there, done-that, mom-tested tips on easing the adjustment to preschool.
Five tips to help your child adjust to preschool
Talk about preschool in advance
Long before the first day, take time to talk to your child about starting preschool and what they can expect. Preschoolers love to know what’s happening, so filling them in on details like their teacher’s name, what the school looks like, and what sorts of activities they’ll be doing will help them feel less overwhelmed when they start. Talk about their new morning routine. If you know any of the other families at the preschool, you can set up playdates with some of their new friends. If possible, it’s also a great idea to visit the preschool with your child before they start, so they can see the school for themselves. Even stopping by and taking a look at the outside of the building can help your child understand what’s coming up.
Go shopping together for supplies
Let’s face it, new school supplies are one of the best parts of back-to-school, whether you’re a university student or a preschooler. Take your little one with you to pick out school supplies like a new backpack, a lunchbox, rain gear, a blanket for naptime or new running shoes. Having new things will help to build positive anticipation. They’ll also feel proud of the things that they picked out by themselves. If you’re shopping online, you can still get your little one involved in choosing colours and patterns for their new school supplies.
Keep your own emotions under control
We get it – it’s a big deal sending your little one off to preschool. It’s totally normal to feel some parental wistfulness, and maybe even get a little teary. However, as any mom can tell you, kids pick up on their parents’ emotions. If you’re calm and happy, it’s more likely that your child will be calm and happy, too. It isn’t always easy, but the more that you can save your own anxiety for times when your child is not around, the easier it will be for your little one. This is especially true when the big day arrives, and preschool starts. If you can set a positive emotional tone for your child’s first day, you’re helping them to see that preschool isn’t so scary, after all.
Talk to the teachers
If you have any questions or concerns, bring them up with the teachers and staff. They’ve seen many children and families start preschool, and they know how to ease the transition. They can offer you helpful tips, and fill you in on details like the daily routine so that you can prepare your child in advance. If the first few days don’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped, they’ll likely have ideas of how to improve things. They may also be able to ease your fears. For instance, many children who cry when their mom leaves are happy and smiling moments later. Knowing that may help you when it’s time for the next good-bye.
Spend lots of time together outside of preschool
In the first few days and weeks after preschool starts, schedule lots of distraction-free time with your child. This is a big change for both of you, and making sure to re-connect once preschool is over can help reassure you and your child that everything is going to be okay. It’s normal for children to express anxiety in other areas of their life when they’re going through a big change. You may notice that your little one regresses temporarily, or their normal habits change for a little while. It will likely pass once they adjust and become more comfortable at school. By taking time outside of school to be together, you can help reduce the anxiety and keep everyone happy.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.