Some children start preschool around three years old or four, but a lot of parents are opting to register their child in preschool a lot earlier than that at around two years old. Sometimes this is done out of necessity (preschool/daycare situation) and sometimes it is to give your child a head start in getting them to play nicely with others.
Whatever the reason, the first day can be stressful for everyone! Not just for parents and children, but for the teacher as well. The teacher is learning about the child, what his likes or dislikes are, how to soothe them if they are crying, what works, what doesn't. They are assessing where your child is developmentally, observing social interactions, sometimes spending most of the day holding her hand or carrying him.
It can be very stressful for some children to be thrown into a room with a bunch of people she doesn't know and left there. To a young child, particularly the two's and three's, it is not often clear to them exactly WHEN you, the parent, will be back. It can be scary for them. Often times, the actions of nervous parents make it harder for the child too.
And there are other children who never have this problem at all! It really depends on the individual. Only you know your child best. Is she slow to warm up? Does she take her time assessing a situation before playing? Has she had other opportunities to interact with others while you are away or is this her first time being left alone? Is she highly extroverted? Is he quick to play with children he's never met before?
How well do you cope with separation? Is this the first time you are leaving your child alone with essentially a stranger? This may be a very stressful time for you. Know that a well seasoned teacher understands this! It can be very difficult!
So how do you make this transition as painless as possible for both your child and yourself?
Parent/Teacher Meeting First, as a teacher, I always like to have an initial meeting with parents before the first day of school. Upon enrollment, a questionnaire of sorts can be sent home and brought back for this meeting. The questionnaire would have things like your child's daily routine, family background, likes, dislikes, things that might be good to know about the child before he even enters the classroom. What some people fail to realize is that most school tours only showcase what is on the surface. There is not much of interaction between parents and teachers, so how can you know if the teacher and classroom will be a good fit for your child? The director may show you around and give you information about the program, but having that one on one time with THE person who is going to spend most of the day with your child is important. If the program you are interested in doesn't provide something like this, REQUEST IT! If the director refuses, I would assume that it is because no one can cover the classroom while the teacher is out... but given enough notice, I don't see why they can't accommodate you.
Transition Period This is not always feasible, with your work schedule or how the program is set up, but sometimes, it helps to have a transition period of a few days to a week to get the child accustomed to being in the classroom. This may mean on the first day, the child is left at school for two hours. Then the next day until right after lunch. Then the next day you could try leaving them until after nap... etc. working the time up until your child has been there a full day. Again, some children don't need this and are happy to get into the whole routine of things, but for some children, something like this can be very beneficial.
Establish a Drop-Off Routine You may be tempted to stay and linger for a fifteen minutes or so on the first day of school, especially if you see your child having a hard time saying goodbye. As much as this feels like the "right" thing to do, it's been my experience that it is the very opposite. You will want to establish a drop-off routine early on, something quick and to the point. Here is an example:
You arrive with your child while the children are in the middle of free play. You help your child put his or her belongings in its respective area ie cubby, hook, etc. You can let your child know "when" you will be coming back to pick her up. You can say "after nap" or "after snack time" or if you are going to be picking your child up around closing time, depending on the season you can say "when it turns into nighttime". You may receive resistance. This is normal. Ignore it! Tell your child you love her, give her A GREAT BIG HUG AND A KISS, and leave. Yes. Even if she is screaming her head off, about to throw up, clawing and gripping to your clothes for dear life. Leave.
It's hard. It really is! I feel horrible for these parents. Although I haven't been in this situation, I understand! That's because I've seen it soooo many times. What happens after you leave? Your child will continue to cry. On her first day, she may cry a lot. This is expected by your child's teacher. But the sooner you leave, the sooner your child will be able to turn to the teacher for comfort and this helps to establish the beginning of the relationship your child will make with her. Once this is established, your child will feel more confident about exploring the classroom, meeting new friends, and enjoying herself in the classroom.
Don't worry if the first week is rough. Don't be discouraged! This can be a huge transition period for your child! Being a confident parent will help your child be more confident in the classroom. Show your child that you trust the teacher! Your child is constantly taking cues from your actions. If you feel hesitant or nervous, your child is going to pick up on this.
In my experience, if you've established a routine like this from beginning, even if your child cries EVERY TIME you leave, more often than not your child will spend at the most three minutes crying. At the most. Then he's over it. He's off, distracted, playing with his new friends or playing with the wooden blocks he loves so much.
If you have concerns about your morning drop off routine, talk to your child's teacher! It is their job to tell you how your child is doing and it is their job to communicate with you! Don't have time at the end of the day? Write a note. Email them- many child development centers are employing modern ways of communicating these days! Ask for photos if this is something that is regularly done in the classroom.
Remember, your child and her teacher spend hours upon hours a week together. Get to know your child's teacher and don't be afraid to voice your opinions or concerns!
Have questions about preparing yourself and your child his first day of school? Comment below or ask me here!