Preschool is an exciting time for everyone in your family. Your son or daughter is growing and learning rapidly. They become more responsible, aware of their place in the world, and excited about growing up. At the same time, adjusting to preschool can be a struggle. Even if a child has been in daily childcare for most of his life, it is likely that preschool will present new and different challenges. Here are four ways to encourage and support your child as they adjust to preschool.
Talk About It
While it may seem like a given, be sure to spend plenty of time talking about the preschool transition. This is true leading up to the change, as well as continuing until your child is settled into the new routine. This won’t necessarily include sitting your child down to have heart-to-heart conversations each day. Instead, bring up the topic of preschool in everyday conversations. Talk about how it will be the same and different from your current routine. For example, mention familiar parts of the routine or classmates your child already knows. Walkthrough your “new normal” many times to help your child feel comfortable. Through this regular communication, you prepare your child for the preschool routine.
Accept All of Your Child’s Feelings
It’s very possible that your child will not like preschool at first. Or, alternatively, it’s possible that there will be particular parts of the day that are difficult for your child, such as drop-off. It is important to make space for your child to express these struggles without judgment or guilt. We all have times that are especially difficult to process, and our children are no different. In the case of preschoolers, they may say things like, “I hate school!” or “I never want to go to school!” Try to accept these statements as an expression of distress rather than taking them at face value. In response, use phrases like, “I understand that this is hard for you” and “I’m going to help you do this.” Knowing that they are not alone and that they are accepted even when they are upset will help your child relax in their new environment. Continue reading in our article about “Emotional Intelligence and Why It Matters in Preschool.”
Establish Goodbye Rituals
Dropping your child off at preschool is often one of the most difficult parts of the day, especially if your child is anxious or unsure. Goodbye rituals can really help your child with this transition. These rituals can be as simple or complex as you desire, with parts of them borrowed from meaningful sources. For example, your ritual may be as simple as drawing a small heart on the back of your child’s hand and your own, to show them that you will remain connected throughout the day. You may sing a special song or say a special rhyme to remind them of your love.
If you struggle to find a good ritual of your own, try reading The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. A lovely story about a little raccoon afraid to go to school, this book introduces a goodbye ritual that you could adapt for your family. Establishing a drop off routine will ease your child’s anxiety and help them make a smoother transition to preschool each day.
Practice Through Make-Believe
Make-believe is a wonderful way for children to explore new scenarios and their own feelings and expectations. If your child is struggling in preschool or doesn’t want to go, engage with them in make-believe to give a safe space for their concern. Set up stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures to be the other students or teachers and then allow your child to direct the scene. Take turns playing teacher, student, and parent. You’ll be amazed how much more you learn about your child’s thoughts and feelings when you play with them.
It is very normal for preschoolers to be unsure in the weeks leading up to school, as well as the weeks after school begins. As a parent, you want your child to succeed and be comfortable in their new environment. Using the above tools, your child will feel heard, seen, and loved, even when they are unsure and struggling. If you are looking for a preschool that will support you and your child through this transition, consider Legacy Academy schools. Our teachers are enthusiastic to assist your child in having the best preschool experience possible.