Is your two or three or four year old going to preschool for the first time? Is this the first time they'll be away from you for several hours? You've checked into the school carefully and are pleased but nervous. What if your little one cries when you go to the school door? What if he says he doesn't want to go after a few days?
How does he or she cope? How do YOU cope?
Tips on Helping Your Child Succeed at Preschool
1. Before school starts, bring your child to the school so he or she can get the lay of the land. Walk them around and even find a favorite toy that they can return to on the first day.
2. Have the teachers talk to your child and give him or her a sense of familiarity.
3. Learn what the school does when kids cry at the door. What do they expect of you? What do you expect of you?
4. If your child clings to you at the door, casually walk in with them and show them around again. Bring the child to the teacher to start a bit of a conversation. Introduce them to a settled child and have them play side by side.
5. Saying good bye need not be an event. Once the child seems settled, just tell them when you'll pick them up and to have a great time. They cannot tell time but it gives a sense of safety and security that there is a certain time when you will arrive. If someone else is going to pick them up, make sure to remind them who it is.
6. Always be on time to pick up your child. Trusting you'll be there when you say is imperative. Come early, so your child can see you at the door. Give a big hello and hug and kiss.
7. Ask your child about all the wonderful things they did that day if they want to tell you. If they are quiet, accept that, too, and spend some time with them with a snack at home.
8. If they bring home a drawing, hang it up and praise all the details.
9. Try to create a schedule so you don't have to rush about when they first get home. Quiet time with a book or toy is comforting as needed.
10. Congratulate your child on being a big boy or girl for going to school. This is a marker for you and for him.
You and your child have succeeded if all goes well. If it was however a troubling day, call the teacher and find out how the hours went. Ask what you can do to help make the second try a better one. If your child is only two, consider after several tries and pleas that the little one doesn't want to go, that maybe it's too early. Two is young. Or, shorten the day or frequency.
Reconsider having someone come to your house instead if you have to go to work. Keep your options open. Preschool isn't right for every small child just when you need it because of your work schedule. Have a plan B if it really isn't working. Then when you're child is a little older they will be more prepared and it will be successful. School is supposed to be a positive experience. Work out the kinks and it will be one.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold.