Starting preschool is a huge step for your kid. The routine he is so used to will change drastically. Your kid’s transition to preschool is the start of him becoming more independent and less attached, as he is beginning his journey into schooling, where he will be for much of his life. You should try to understand it not only from your perspective, but from his. Change is a hard process for anyone, whether you’re three or thirty three. Here are ways to ease your kid’s jitters about starting preschool:
Play Up the Fun
Going to school is an abstract thought for a preschooler. Try to help them understand exactly what they will be doing during their time away from home, so they don’t lay awake wondering about it. Get them excited with statements like, “you’re going to have so many new toys to play with, fun songs to learn and new games to play!” or “You’ll get to meet lots of new kids.” By giving them a concrete idea of what they’ll be doing, you are easing their fears of the unknown. Don’t make promises like, “you’re going to make so many great friends” because if it doesn’t happen right away, your child will only be disappointed.
Encourage your kid to talk to you about any fears or worries they may be experiencing. Ask gentle, open-ended questions like, “it’s scary to go to a new school, isn’t it?” Then, depending on his answers, find ways to make the transition easier for him and let him know that you care, with questions like, “what can we do to make it less scary for you?” You can suggest things like bringing along his security blanket or his favorite toy for comfort. You can also relate yourself into the situation, saying “It’s sometimes scary to meet new people for me too, but I try to be brave and say ‘hi’ anyway.” If interacting with new kids is his major worry, then role play that situations with him (“Hi, my name is X, what’s your name?”).
Do a Dry Run
A good way to ease your kid’s preschool jitters is to do a dry run – take your kid to visit the preschool before the school year begins and introduce him to his new teachers. Show him around the classroom, focusing on the good stuff, like how many different kinds of toys there are, or how he will get his very own cubby. Many preschools even host a meet and greet before school starts up, which is a great opportunity for your kid to meet his classmates and for you to get to know some of the other parents. Again, if he knows what he’s getting into, he will be a lot less nervous when the Big Day is finally here. This visit will also help to ease your fears, too.
“Mommy, Don’t Leave Me”
It is pretty natural if your kid starts to cry on the first morning, or even first few mornings, of starting preschool. In fact, you may start to tear up, too. But, don’t let your child see it. Put on a brave face and say encouraging words. Reassure him that you will always be there at the end of the day to pick him up, or at least, have dinner with him. Don’t panic and think he doesn’t like his new school, because he will probably grow to love it. He is just experiencing some separation anxiety because he doesn’t want to be away from you. Try to make your goodbye short and sweet, even if he is still crying a little. The longer you drag it out or make a whole ritual out of your departure, the more he will cry and possibly start a fit. Just keep in mind that once he makes some new friends and gets more caught up with the preschool routine, he will actually look forward to going every day.