Every time our children go through a change, good or bad, we feel it sometimes twice as intensely. It’s part of being a mom, isn’t it?
I remember my son’s first sniffles. Oh, the tragedy, the crying (mostly mine). But we survived. Or his first knee scrape. We survived that one too. I guess that we are programmed to shield our babies against all harm. But unfortunately, it’s impossible and they will inevitably know hardship.
When my son was almost two years old we decided that he was going to start preschool that fall. It was going to be a new exciting chapter, a new milestone in his life so, naturally, I had an assortment of feelings. On the one side, I was thrilled because he was going to socialise with children his age, something that he didn’t have the chance to do as much as he should’ve, he was going to learn so many things and, let me be honest, I was going to have a few hours to myself. But on the other side, I was very anxious because he had never been away from me for more than half an hour, plus we were ex-pats so in addition to being among strangers all on his own he didn’t even understand the language.
I know that kids are more adaptable than we think but as a mom I can’t help but worry. So, a couple of months before starting preschool, I began preparing him for the big day in the hopes that these steps will make his transition smoother and with fewer tears and screaming.
Although the first week he was pretty upset when it was time to say goodbye, I truly believe that these activities helped him make the transition smoother.
So, if you are a parent whose child is starting preschool soon, here are a few strategies to help prepare him/her for the big day.
Arrange a visit to the preschool centre
Although a week before starting school we had an official meet and greet with his teacher and all the other parents, I arranged another tour of his preschool centre in order to give him more time to adjust to the new environment. His teacher was extremely nice and welcoming, her years of experience and gentle approach got my little boy to warm up to her quickly which made things much easier on the first day because he had a friendly face there.
So, if possible, arrange for a private visit at your preschool centre and allow your child to get comfortable with the surroundings and his teacher.
Pretend play is very effective when trying to explain certain concepts or prepare the child for an upcoming event.
What I did was we gathered some of his stuffies in a room (which was the pretend classroom) and I told him that they were the other children at school who came there to play and have fun.
Then, we went to his bedroom and I’d say: “Good morning, George, let’s go to playgroup!”. To add to the fun, we’d choose a funny walk to go to the “classroom” (we ended up doing a funny walk from the car to the actual classroom as well).
Once in the “classroom”, I’d tell him to go play with his friends, give him a kiss, a hug and cheerfully leave the room.
Of course, on the first day of preschool things weren’t as cheerful as in our pretend play but I truly believe that this game helped prepare him better for what was to come than just describing it to him (I did that as well).
Adjust bedtime and morning routine
A few weeks before starting preschool I slightly adjusted his bedtime so I made sure that he got 10-11 hours of sleep. It took a few days for him to get used to the new schedule but he did it eventually.
My little sunshine is not an early riser which is a blessing for me, as neither am I. However, that was about to change, since, once preschool started, we had to be up and ready to go by 8:30 am which meant that we had to wake up at about 7:30 am. Our usual wake-up time up to that point had been around 9 am. So, yeah, that took a little getting used to and a few grumpy mornings but we finally got into the habit of waking up at that time.
Adjusting bedtime and morning routine definitely helped me avoid having an irritable little boy in the morning and an overtired one in the evening.
Do a few practice school runs together
Since we were waking up earlier than usual, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt doing a few practice school runs. This helped me see exactly how much time it took us to get there, how the traffic was at that time of day and how long it took me to get little munchkin ready and into the car.
We all know the importance of reading to our children. Besides the obvious benefits like rich vocabulary, literacy skills, better social and emotional development and more, books are great tools to help children understand various ideas.
There are many books for children out there that touch this subject. We read “Llama Llama Misses Mama” and “Splat the Cat” which my son absolutely adored.
Be excited but don’t overdo it
You want your child to associate preschool with something thrilling and fun. So, obviously, when talking about it you will do your best to sound excited. After all, you want all this exuberance to rub off onto your child. But sometimes it’s easy to overdo it and that’s when it can backfire. Don’t forget that your child knows you very well. He/she will tell that you are perhaps a little bit too excited about this whole preschool thing so something might be off. This might make him/her weary and wondering why is mommy or daddy trying so hard to convince me that this preschool is fun.
So, be excited, talk about all the wonderful things that happen in preschool but don’t overdo it.
For most children, preschool is a wonderful experience and the first contact with an organised type of educational program. But like with any beginning it’s difficult. It’s difficult for them and difficult for us, parents.
I vividly remember how I felt on the first few days when I dropped my son off. I felt heavy as if I had boulders in my stomach and I felt like half of me was missing (and there might’ve been some tears as well). All I could do is wonder what he was doing, was he crying, were the other children kind to him and so on.
So sending your child to preschool means an adjustment period not only for the little one but also for you. All we can do is prepare them as best as we can for this new stage in their life and brace ourselves for the potential tears and screaming when it’s time to say goodbye.
But as a momma who’s been through this (and getting ready to go through it again with my second), I can tell you that it’s going to be alright. Your child will adjust, just keep in mind that the adjustment period varies for each child. For my George, it was about 2 weeks which was a surprise because I thought that it was going to take longer than that. Kids are full of surprises and much more resilient and adaptable than we think.