It's September again! Back to class for some, and the first time in class for others!
Preschool can be exciting, scary and even a little sad for some, as the babies you've nurtured start their 'school' career and take tiny steps towards independence.
The move into a preschool setting may be the first experience for some children, those who haven't been in a setting away from home or family for care. It could also be the time when a preschooler has become a sibling, and is coming to preschool to have some time with a peer group. However it comes about, starting preschool represents a transition.
The ability to handle a transition is a skill, but it can be difficult to learn. These are a few ways to help both your child and yourself.
1. Before preschool starts, see if you can visit the classroom and if possible meet the teachers.
2. If it is an option, attend any open house events hosted by the preschool. This is often an opportunity to meet the teachers and experience the classroom setting in a smaller group, and offers families the chance to meet each other as well. Community building!
3. Make a point of learning the teacher's names, so you can help your child learn them as well. Much better to have them stay with 'Jane' for the morning, than with some anonymous 'teacher'. Also, learn the routines of the classroom, so you can help your child understand what the day will look like. You are the trusted adult he/she is looking to for guidance, especially until they have learned to be comfortable with and trust their teachers!
4. Share important information that may impact your child's transition with teachers. A new baby, a new home, changes in the parent relationship, someone moving in -- all these things can have a big impact on a child and their ability to adjust to another change like preschool.
5. Be prepared to spend time with your child in the beginning, and ask teachers for some guidance if you need it. Some children do well with the 'bandaid' approach - a quick goodbye and off you go, while for others the slow and steady method is best. There isn't one best way to drop your child at preschool, and the experienced staff can help you through if a softer approach is needed.
6. Expect a relapse! Even when a child seems fully comfortable in their new preschool setting, there may be times when you feel like you're starting all over again. After a weekend, when they're not feeling well, over a holiday time, or maybe during a growth spurt - sometimes they just don't feel like preschool today and will kick up when you try to take them into the classroom.
7. Lastly, remember that learning to manage change and transitions in the classroom, and in life, is an important skill to learn. How we cope with situations that are hard or uncomfortable has a big impact on how we adapt and interact in the world, now and into the future. It's important to support your child in learning to change and adjust, and to avoid the impulse to protect them from learning this new skill.
Since 1986, I have been working with, and on behalf of young children. As an ECE and a Mom, I have gained some insights and made some mistakes that I am happy to share with others, in hopes that some of what I have learned will be of use to others. Corinne