Tips to help parents of preschoolers survive the first day of school

The start of another school year is bitter sweet for many parents.  Although the less structured summer schedule allowed for a little more laid-back fun with the family, there’s something about the regular routine of fall that starts to sound appealing as August comes to a close. As the first day of school approches, there’s some important things to remember that will help the transition into another school year to be successful for everyone.

It is helpful to prepare your preschooler for the first day of school and one way you can do this is by telling them what to expect.  Tell them that you will be dropping them off at school and that they will have fun learning new things and meeting new friends. It is also helpful to visit your child’s school with them ahead of time if you can. Be excited about the first day of school!  Children will feed off of your emotions, so if they see that you are excited they can share in that excitement.  Sometimes a new backpack that they can bring to school or a new blanket for rest time will give them something tangible to look forward to even if they can’t anticipate everything about this new experience.

When the first day of school comes, don’t be surprised if your child cries when you drop them off.  Many parents are taken by surprise when their outgoing and independent three-year-old suddenly starts to cling to their leg in tears on the first day of school.  And even more surprised if they were fine on day one and chase after them towards the door on day two.  This is normal and how you respond can go a long way towards helping your child to gain independence and confidence.

Don’t sneak away.  It may be tempting to sneak away when your child engages in an activity and is not looking, but this will only create more anxiety for your child.  If they can depend on being able to say “good-bye”, then they can depend on you to return.

But don’t linger. Your child needs to see that you are confident in the new environment that you are leaving them in.  If they sense that you are apprehensive, they will be worried and unsure.

The best thing to do is to develop a regular “good-bye routine” and stick to it.  Drop off their things at their cubby.  Bring them over to an activity that you know they will enjoy.  Give them a hug and tell them you’ll be back to pick them up at the end of the day.  Allow your child’s teacher to step-in if necessary.  Teachers are ready and willing to do so, but they need to know that you are okay with it. In most cases, your child will be done crying and engaged in an activity with a friend before you drive away.

And resist pop-in visits.  Sometimes parents mistakenly believe that a “surprise” visit at lunch time is a good idea.  Although your child will be thrilled to see you, they will not be thrilled when you leave again without them.

Finally, when you come to pick them up at the end of the day, reinforce the fact that you returned just like you said you would and encourage them to tell you all about their day.  Allowing them to reflect on the positive things about their day will help them settle into their new routine and will give them the confidence to tackle new adventures!

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