Preschool is a big transition for kids. It’s a bridge between toddlerhood and Kindergarten, and the change can make even the most excited little student a little anxious. If you’ve got a preschooler at home, try these tips for helping him navigate this exciting (but sometimes scary) new world.
1. Get on board
“The very first step in helping your child enjoy preschool is for the parent to enjoy the idea of the child in preschool,” says Tami Lanham, Founder of the Kinder Garden School in Blue Ash. “If a child senses that the parent is nervous or upset with the staff, the child will trust those feelings and have a tougher transition.”
2. Keep it short and sweet
For some kids, the few minutes of transition time at the beginning of the school day can be the hardest of all. Emilie Parry, director and owner of Creative Tots in Mason, suggests keeping your goodbyes on the short side. “Make it quick,” she recommends. “A quick hug, a quick kiss. Tell them you can’t wait to hear about their day later.” And don’t linger she says. “This only makes it more difficult for the child, the parent and the teacher.”
3. Get to know the staff
Lanham recommends parents go into the classrooms and talk to the teachers. Take advantage of open-door policies. You will be working together to make your child’s experience a successful one.
If you have an issue you would like to discuss with staff, Parry suggests contacting the teacher by email. “Drop-off and pick-up are the busiest time for teachers as they are making sure every child has what they need and are being dismissed to the correct individual,” she explains. “For specific concerns, emailing the teacher is the best way to set up a time to meet with your child’s teacher or schedule a phone call so they can give you their undivided attention.”
4. Jump in
If possible, try to take advantage of opportunities to get involved at your child’s school. Volunteer to read a book to the class, join classroom parties or find other ways to be a part of what’s going on. Your preschooler will love having you share in their world.
5. Stay positive
Be mindful of the way you discuss preschool at home in front of your child. Lanham says that children trust their parents’ perspective of a situation. Showing your enthusiasm and support for preschool will make them feel confident about their experienced as well.
Jannis Strasser of the National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests celebrating your child’s small, specific successes. For example, “Tell her that you are proud of the way she tried to print her name,” she says. “Don’t expect perfection. If your child was perfect, she wouldn’t have to go to school.”
6. Add some helpful books to your bookshelf
Many books are available that are designed to help kids overcome preschool anxiety and get excited to attend school. Parry suggests the following: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, Mommy Always Comes Back by Penny Schnee-Bosch and Llama, Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney.
7. Keep things simple
Avoid battles over things like what to wear or eating a big meal before the school day. Keep your focus on the more important goals of preschool. Also, Strasser suggests not dwelling on how many friends a child is making. “This is too abstract for most young children, and their friends change by the minute,” she says. Instead, ask open-ended questions like “Tell me about some of the children in your class.”
Most children will settle into a routine at preschool and grow to enjoy their time away from home within a few months. However, if your child seems increasingly anxious as time goes on, consult with the preschool director and your child’s teacher to address any stumbling blocks that are getting in the way of your child enjoying this important milestone experience. Helping your preschooler love school will make the transition to Kindergarten that much easier!