This is an exciting time as you prepare for your child’s first days and weeks of school. It is a time of transition for children and for parents, and we have found that the experience will be richer and more positive with the right kind of preparation. Following are the emotional and physical preparations we have found to be most helpful during the transition to preschool.
Provide social experiences away from home and away from you: it is important for every child to learn to separate from parents and learn to feel safe and comfortable in the presence of other trusted adults. This is a critically important preparation for school because these experiences allow the child to discover that they can stay in other environments and enjoy themselves, relaxing and trusting that their parent will return for them later.
Arrange play dates or short classes during the summer, where you leave your child in the care of another trusted adult for increasing longer periods of time.
Always explain to your child that you will be gone for awhile, and that you will return a bit later.
Be consistent in returning in time when the class or activity has ended, so your child gains confidence that you always return as you said you would.
Become familiar with the new school: This is an important preparatory step, even if your child has been in previous childcare settings, because this is a new place to them.
Prior to the start of school, take time to drive by the school building at least several times so that your child begins to recognize the location and buildings.
During the week prior to the start of school, call your campus to schedule a brief, informal time to meet your child’s teacher.
While on campus to meet your child’s new teacher, take the time to walk around the school grounds and explore the playground.
Include the new school and new adults in regular conversation at home: By hearing you speak of the new school casually and often, your child will sense that you already know a lot about this place and you are comfortable and excited about this new experience.
When speaking with your child about the new school, refer to specific teachers and other adults by name so your child will begin to regard these people as familiar and trusted adults even before school has begun.
Discuss what will happen when school starts: It is comforting to children to hear what will happen, and likewise unsettling for children when changes occur for which they are not prepared. As you talk with your child about their new school, remember to be positive, brief, and consistent in what you say so they can begin to relax into the new routine before school has even begun.
Keep your descriptions brief, truthful, and clear as you describe what will happen on a school day, for example: “After breakfast we’ll drive to your new school and greet your teacher at the door. She’ll probably shake your hand and invite you in. You’ll go inside and work and play with friends in the classroom, while I do some of my own work at home/office/etc. You’ll have a snack, play on the playground, and have lunch at school. After you finish working and playing at school, I’ll come back to pick you up and then we’ll go home together.”
Tell this true life story often to help your child become comfortable with the new school routine well before the first day.
Make your “goodbye” brief and positive: On the first days of school, as parents we can easily fall into the trap of lengthy farewells with many hugs, because the separation is difficult for us as well. Lengthy farewells create separation anxiety for both child and adult and add confusion and stress to the child’s experience of school.
Convey your confidence in the new school as you approach the building, such as: “I see your new teacher and some new friends have already arrived. It’s going to be a great day at school.”
At the door, keep your goodbyes brief and positive, such as: “Have a great day! I love you and I will be back when your school day is done.”
If your child is having a difficult morning separation, you are encouraged to call the school office and ask us to peek into the classroom after you leave. We are always happy to give you an update about how your child is doing. In most cases, within moments of the parent’s departure, the child will have settled into an activity in the classroom.
Equally important as the emotional preparations mentioned above is the physical support which provides your child with the confidence and stamina to get the most out of school.