You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Preparing your child (and YOU) for the start of preschool!

The first day of preschool can be difficult for your child and you!

The big yellow school buses are starting to show up around my house again.  My daughter has had her first day of teaching 4th grade and I know several college students who are moved in and studying hard.  I remember that familiar feeling of excitement and some sadness about my kids leaving and starting new beginnings that crept into my heart each year at this time.  Transitions can be difficult for parents and children.  (in my case transition was more difficult for me than my kids!  🙂 )  Many of your little ones will soon be starting Moms Day Out Programs or Preschool…are you and your child ready for that transition?  Sometimes dropping your child off at their school can result in a few tears from you and a few from your child.  Almost all children (and parents) have some separation anxiety at the start of preschool.  Sometimes children (and parents) revisit these feelings after holiday breaks, long weekends, and of course every fall as the new school year begins.  It is hard developmental work for a preschooler to transition to new routines, new places, meet new people and separate from Mom and Dad!  So give your child a little time and try a few of these tips to get through those first few weeks of school:

  1. Talk about school! Don’t just make general statements like “You will love it!”  “It will be so much fun!”  Talk about specifics.  What will your child do?  What kind of toys and activities will be there?  What is the daily schedule?  Drive by and point out where the school is.  Be sure to visit the school with your child at least once before the first official day.
  2. Add routine at home.  Start to structure your day at home a couple of weeks before school starts.  Practice transitioning in activities like snack, play time, and cleaning up.  Start earlier bedtime routines and wake up times if your child will be rising earlier for school.  Start laying out clothes the night before and eating breakfast quickly in the morning.  Practicing the morning routine helps remove stress that first few weeks of school.
  3. Read books about preschool.  Reading about the start of school helps open the door for conversations.  One of my favorites is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
  4. Have your own good-bye ritual.  Remember preschoolers have no real concept of time.  Saying  “I will be back in 3 hours!” means nothing.  Learn what the schedule is at school and tell your child that you will be back after the last story, or after snack…whatever the schedule is at school.  Keep your good-bye ritual simple.  If the good-bye is long and emotional (for you both) it will make your child more anxious (and you).  A simple hug, kiss, and a special private ritual like a high-five will work.  Using the same good-bye ritual will make transition easier.
  5. Never sneak away.  If you actually drop off in the classroom, get your child started with an activity and then say your good-bye.  Sneaking away will only increase your child’s anxiety.
  6. Get your emotions under control.  Your child will feed off of your anxiety.  Take a deep breath and save the tears for after you leave.  Your tears and constant “You will be fine…don’t worry!” comments only make your child more anxious!
  7. Try a transitional object.  Check with the school to see if your child may bring a comfort object “just in case”.  I sent a tissue with a lipstick “kiss” on it tucked in the pocket of my #3 daughter’s pocket when she had difficulty heading into kindergarten.  A lovey, family picture tucked in a backpack, or some other similar item can provide a little comfort when needed.
  8. Don’t be late…be early!  Being on time for pick up is so important! Children become very anxious if they are one of the last ones to be picked up, or they can’t see your car waiting in carpool line.  It is easy to try to  run one more errand when you have that free morning, but make being on time a priority.
  9. Give your child a big hug, kiss, and smile at pick up.  Sometimes a child will have an emotional reaction when he or she sees you at pick up, that often just means they have “held it together” for the day, and now the emotions flow.  That doesn’t mean the day was awful!
  10. Talk about the day.  Ask questions, “ooh and ahh” over the art projects, and talk about feelings if your child had a difficult time separating.  Give labels to those feelings and talk about strategies for the next time your child goes to school.  Talk about times when you were sad or nervous and what you did.  Don’t ignore the feelings…acknowledge and empathize.

Preschool, daycare,  grade school, high school (and college) are big transitions for your child and you!  A little preparation for both of you will help with the transition, but it still will tug at your heart-strings.  That is part of parenting…one heart tug after another…and the growth and development of one amazing child to an amazing adult.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


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