Tips for Handling the First Day of Preschool

helping your child cope in school

Whether it’s preschool, primary school or secondary school, every parent has the first-day-of-school jitters – that weird and wonderful mix of anxiety, excitement, anticipation, stress and fear. Perhaps more than the children themselves!

The first day of preschool is definitely a huge milestone in any family, and is especially tough for the mom. Your little baby is growing up, and (you tearfully worry) away from you. Going to school can seem daunting in the logistics involved, the beginning of academic life and the end of those years of total carefree play. There will be new friends made, germs caught and milestones reached where you’re not around.

You may be concerned that your little one will feel abandoned and lost when you leave him in this new environment. As far as possible, do take steps to ease the transition by introducing him to the place in advance and explaining to him what school is like. If your child has never been out of your watch since birth, now might be a good time to leave him with trusted friends or family members for periods of time, so that the first day of school is not the first time
he is apart from you.

enjoying schoolThat said, even IF your child feels abandoned on the first day of school, he will very quickly realize (from Day 1 in fact) that mummy is going to come and pick him up after school every day, and be able to rest secure in that knowledge.

Still, be prepared for some tears on the first day, and know that it may be a fairly grueling emotional experience for you. Letting go is never easy, but we, too, will adapt fairly quickly to the new way of life, if we adopt a healthy positive attitude towards it. Here are some tips to help you survive the first day of preschool.

 Sleep early

The night before that first day, be sure to get everyone to bed on time, so everyone wakes up on time and happy. Give yourself a bit of buffer time on the morning itself so no one’s in a hurry.

Say goodbye and go

Helping your child cope in schoolWhen you reach the school, allow some time for your child to settle in, but don’t overstay your welcome. Smile and stay calm (you can cry when you get back to your car or out of sight!). Your child may (ok probably will) cry and cling to you when you leave. Resist the urge to give in to his requests to go home. You are just delaying the inevitable. Instead, reassure your child that you love him, that you will be back to get him at the end of the day/session, and that he will be ok. Then, calmly walk out the door.

Some schools may allow you to stay for the first day or two, so that’s an option you can consider. But do bear in mind that this is not likely to alleviate your child’s misgivings or fears about seeing you go when you do leave – in fact, it may cause the separation to feel even worse and incomprehensible.

Tell the truth

helping your child cope in schoolDon’t lie to your child that you’re just going out for a drink, or try to sneak out the door when he isn’t looking. There’s nothing worse than feeling you’ve been tricked or abandoned by the person you trust most in the whole world, so don’t let your child have to go through something like that. Just tell him the truth, tell him when you are leaving, and then go.

Trust the teachers

Fret not. Preschool teachers are well-trained in how to manage distressed children, and are very used to such scenarios. They will have various strategies to distract your child to calm him down. And since it’s a new environment for your child, he will have lots to keep her occupied and busy, especially at the beginning.

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