How to Cope with Your Child’s First Day at Preschool
For any child preschool can be an exciting and nurturing experience. However, their first day away from home, mom and dad can be difficult for both the child and the parents. Here are our top tips to help you handle separation anxiety with your child’s first day at preschool:
Have Fun Preparing Your Child for Preschool
Getting your child involved with the preparations can be a great way to get them excited for their first day – let them choose their backpack, lunches, stationery, a new outfit etc. Allowing your child to make their own decisions when it comes to getting ready for preschool will boost their confidence and emphasize the fact that they are going to be a “big kid” soon. Make sure that they understand they will only be able to use their cool new things on their first day and they will be so excited to get their little mittens on them, they won’t pay much attention to the event.
Observe, Talk and Listen
In the few weeks leading up to your child’s first day, beware of any non-verbal signs of distress. You should keep any conversation about preschool upbeat and positive, but if you notice that they are anxious then let them express their concerns. It is difficult to not immediately want to reassure them that it will be ok, but it is better to let them talk out their worries. This will ensure that your child feels loved and that their concerns are valid (maybe tell them about one of your “first-time” experiences and how you felt and handled it).
Spend Time with Your Child at Preschool
Allow your child to get used to the unfamiliar surroundings with you available to them as comfort or support if they need it. Depending on the preschool’s policy you could do this in one of two ways:
- Before the first day take your child to the preschool to explore and play.
- On the first day spend some time watching your child get used to their new school before leaving.
If you are able to do the first option it will also enable you to see if your chosen preschool is the right fit for your child and to get to know some of the other children and parents that will be attending the preschool with your child.
Make the Transition Easier with a Familiar Object
Make sure that, if the preschool allows it, your child takes a familiar object or “lovey” with them for the first few days or weeks. This object can be their favorite toy, a blanket, a photo book of your family and home, or anything else that will help your child when they feel lonely or insecure. Once they feel comfortable they will start leaving it in their cubby or at home.
Create a Routine
The sooner you start your child on a preschool routine the better. This means getting them used to school bed times and wake-up times a few weeks before the big day as well as other small routines such as a special goodbye handshake or hug. Remember to give yourself enough time in the mornings (especially on the first day) to get ready in a stress-free environment – this means no rushed meals or running out the house while still trying to pack backpacks. Make sure that you spend your mornings with your child, eating breakfast together or casually chatting about the day ahead can help calm their nerves and let them know that you care about them and are there for them.
This can be a stressful and emotional moment for both parent and child. To make it easier, keep an upbeat tone – your child can pick up emotions from you. Also, don’t draw-out the moment – keep it quick but don’t just disappear when they aren’t looking (this can leave them feeling abandoned and insecure). Lastly, don’t turn back – if you hear them crying don’t go back to try to comfort or rescue them because it will only make the process more difficult as you will have to start it all over again.