On June 15, it’s going to be the start of another something great for the preschool department. The nurturing preschool teachers, although pretty challenged during the first day of school or long before it arrives, cannot contain their excitement to finally meet the cute little curious Sagradans who are about to venture out of their comfort zone and start, or for others, continue their educational journey with preschool.
Despite the amazing surprises and wonderful challenges and adventures in store for both students and the teachers each academic year, change can be tough and scary for little ones and parents alike. The transition of sending a child to preschool for the first time, or even the first day in a new classroom in the old preschool, can feel anxiety-ridden and eccentric for both parents and the kid. Outburst, whimpering, clinging, and begging—all manifestations of preschoolers struggling with separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety as defined by Psychology Today, refers to excessive fear or distress that can happen to both children and adults when they think about separating from the people they’ve become attached to. Being away from home and entering a new environment filled with unfamiliar faces could cause anxiety for the little ones especially when they are too attached with their parents. While this behavior is totally normal since its part of child’s socio-emotional development, this is never an easy phase for a child and also for their parents.
While we understand that coping up with separation anxiety doesn’t happen overnight, we, the preschool teachers of MDSF always aspire to ease the transition from home to school. Thus, aside from guaranteeing you of the calm, caring and having the sense of family classroom environment, we also have delved into different tried-and-tested tips that may help you and your child transition smoothly on the first day of preschool and beyond.
Start with a warm up. Introduce your child to the school and new teachers before the first day. Take pictures of the front of the building, the teachers’ faces and the new cubby, and show him a few times before school starts.
Reintroduce the teacher to your child. Allow them to form an initial relationship. Make it clear that you trust the teacher and are at ease with her watching your child.
Never sneak out of the room. When it’s time to go, make sure to say good-bye to your child. As tempting as it may be, leaving without saying good-bye to your child risks his trust in you. Sneaking away can actually cause stress for your child later in the day. Your child won’t be happy when he figures out you’re gone.
Keep your goodbyes short and sweet. Once you say good-bye, leave promptly. Once he’s gotten involved in an activity, let your child know that you’ll be there to pick him up at the end of the class sessions. A long farewell scene is like prolonging the agony and it might only serve to reinforce a child’s sense that preschool is a bad place.
Send positive signals. Express your ease with leaving. Watch your body language as you say goodbye. Stand up straight and smile for your little one to model a cheerful goodbye!
Remind your child that he is an expert at mastering new places. Say something like, “Remember how afraid you were of the zoo? Now you love it!”
Bring a friend from home. Let her take a small transitional or comfort object to school. It may be a note from you, a family picture, or a stuffed animal to keep in her cubby in case she needs comforting.
Don’t put words in her mouth. Don’t say, “I know you hate school.” Reflect instead: “I hear you saying you feel sad. What can mommy or teacher (mention the name of his teacher) can do for you?”
Consider a reward system. If your child went to class without kicking up a fuss, you may put a smiley face somewhere visible in his room (otherwise, he will get a sad face). At the end of the week, you may reward your child with either tangible or intangible rewards for getting those smileys.
Learn the other kids’ names. When you can call your child’s classmates by name (“Look, Gab! You may want to join EJ and Andrei playing with the blocks?”), it makes school seem much more familiar and safe for your child.
Get the teacher/s involved. Ideally, your child’s preschool teacher will be a warm, caring, and experienced individual who can anticipate her students’ needs. But since she is new to you, too, brief her with necessary information that will help her and your child get to know each other better.
Most of all, acknowledge your own separation pangs. Shake, shake, shake off the guilt. Your child will stop crying a lot sooner than you think. Trust the teacher and trust yourself; have confidence that you made the best decision and chose the best preschool for your child.
By Sofie Bautista