Sending a small child to preschool can be very stressful. Kate Kelly, Managing Editor of American Baby Magazine, has some tips for easing the transition.
First, start by reading your little one books about preschool. Children love stories; by reading a book about preschool, you're helping your child know what to expect. "Talk up the activities, and if they want to read it over and over again, go with it," says Kelly. It's your job to paint a positive picture of preschool.
You can also try role playing. One day, pretend to be a teacher and your child the student. The next day, switch roles. Kelly suggests practicing "goodbye" too, so it's not so alarming when you actually do drop your child off for the day. Or, "Visit the school. Let them see it. If you can meet the teacher, even better," says Kelly.
When the first day finally arrives, encourage your child to bring something from home like a stuffed animal or favorite action figure. "They can just put it in their cubby or on their coat hook - they don't have to carry it around all day," says Kelly. "Just knowing it's there will make them feel better." If you're worried your child will be teased for bringing something from home, don't worry - chances are, everyone else will have their favorite toy or blanket too.
Once you arrive, remember this simple phrase: Stay, Play and Say Goodbye. Don't make a big fuss about leaving your child alone. Don't tell them how much you'll miss them or that you'll be waiting right outside in the car. Instead, remind them that you'll be back later and tell them, "I love you, have fun!" On the first day, it's okay to linger a little to get your child settled. Once you see them playing on their own, though, it's time to leave.
If your child starts to cry, resist the urge to scoop them up and take them home or to stay at preschool with them. "You have to remember, these teachers are pros," says Kelly. "Sometimes when you stay, you just prolong the agony." By staying longer, you're showing your child that this is the way preschool works; if Junior cries, Mommy and Daddy won't leave them. That's not the message you want to send to your child. Trust the preschool staff. If you have concerns, you can always call and have someone check in on your child.
Finally, stay positive. "When you look worried or upset, they just pick up on that," says Kelly.
For more information on preschool, as well as additional parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun