Every year the Teachers and I wait for the first day of school. Excited to meet all of the new students and see how the returners have changed! What the first month will look like in regards to drop-off and pick-up is always our biggest anticipation. Will the students separate from their adult quickly and easily, will there be tears and desperate cries, will they need to be reminded to say good-bye or will we need to hold them as their adult tries quickly to leave?
A new environment, new adults, and new children to meet can be a very daunting experience for a preschooler – the same situation can be difficult for most adults! A few things for parents to remember is that each student handles the situation in their own way and it’s the adult’s job to be confident, consistent and reassuring. Preschoolers look to their adult to gauge a situation – don’t forget that you are their leader, their guide. When a parent is steady and sound in their decision making the child’s behavior will reflect that. If instead, they hear your concerns and worries – because whether you realize it or not, they hear what you say when you are talking to your partner, your friends, and your family even on the phone – their behavior will show up in a way that mirrors what you say. Children hear, feel and internalize what is going on around them especially when it comes from the ones they love and depend on. Own and trust your decision to send them to preschool. It is where they belong and you took the time to find the perfect place for your child. Don’t doubt yourself now!
To put them at ease, create a routine. It is easy to forget that while you may know the schedule and routine – because you came up with it – they do not. Big changes are exactly that to a preschooler…BIG! They need time to process, time to live the experience and time to understand the new environment and reality. Deciding on a consistent routine and talking/walking them through all the steps can help to ease the transition. Include your child in the prep it requires to get ready for preschool each day: packing their lunch and snack, filling their water bottle, picking out clothes etc. Age-appropriate choices will give them ownership over a situation, which goes a long way in helping your child feel safe and secure. While it can seem time consuming and difficult to include them it is a fundamental building block in their development. Now that they are not infants and toddlers, depending on you for everything, it is time to allow them to do the simple tasks that are required for their day-to-day life.
Remember that it is their job to learn to function and care for themselves – while their childhood is a wondrous time it is also a time to learn how to be a person in the world. I know that it takes longer for them to do simple tasks but the more practice they get the easier it will become and along the way they will build confidence – which is priceless!
—Teacher Rachel, Seattle Preschool Director