Tips parents can use to help their child in making a happy and healthy transition.
Published: July 1, 2017
By: Paige Townley
The first day of preschool is a big step in the life of a young child. While certainly exciting, the milestone can be a stressful one for children (and even many parents) as oftentimes it’s the first time a child will be away from mom or dad for a prolonged period of time. But there are many things parents can do to greatly help their child in making a happy and healthy transition. By taking the time to prepare themselves and their child, parents can make the transition as easy as A-B-C.
While starting preschool may be a somewhat sad change for parents, it’s important that parents show a lot of excitement. “Even if mom is holding back tears, she needs to be excited in front of her child,” says Amanda Bentley, director of Odyssey Early School’s Trace Crossings Campus. “Parents need to show excitement about school. A child will get excited about it if mom and dad are showing excitement.”
Tracy LaBreche, program director at Covenant Classical School, echoes the importance of building excitement before the child starts school. By creating excitement and talking about what they will experience at school, it will make the transition easier and less stressful. “Over the summer, parents can create excitement and really build the child’s interest to make it fun and something to look forward to instead of something to dread,” she says. “Creating something for the child to look forward to and talking through what school is like will help the child know what to expect and make it an easier transition for them to handle.”
Being excited about school also helps a child be more comfortable with the teacher and the idea of learning new ideas, adds Palmer Kennedy, headmaster of Advent Episcopal School. “It’s important for parents to instill in their child that learning is something to be excited about, not something to fear,” he says. “If the child can be comfortable with the school and know that they are going to be loved and cared for by their teacher, a child can really be ahead of the game.”
Establish a Routine
For children who struggle separating from mom or dad, it’s important to establish a consistent routine for drop off and pick up from school, Bentley adds. “Kids can struggle if the time changes dramatically every day, especially if they are picked up early one day and very late the next,” she says. “Some kids can handle flexible schedules, but some can’t. So for those that can’t, consistency is definitely a good thing.”
Communicate with the Teacher
No one knows a child better than mom or dad. Parents should take the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the teacher before school starts to discuss any potential issues or helpful information that could assist the teacher in relating to and teaching their child.
“If it’s beneficial for the teacher to know a specific aspect about the child physically, developmentally, emotionally, or socially, parents can help prep the teacher so that he or she can know how to best relate to and teach the child from the very start,” says LaBreche. “Many programs are open to having a mini-orientation or some sort of time when parents can sit down with the teacher. A greater level of success can be achieved for both the teacher and the child if the communication between parents and a teacher is honest and open from the very beginning.”
Read, Read, Read
Reading plays a big part in school, and while children don’t know how to read quite yet in preschool, having a love of reading is important. Parents should spend lots of time before school starts instilling a love for reading. “Develop that love for reading by sitting and reading books with your child,” says LaBreche. “That also helps develop a child’s vocabulary.”
Work on the Basics
While most preschools don’t require that a child be potty trained or know how to do many tasks, it’s always beneficial if a child possesses some independent skills, such as washing their hands and being able to put on their coat. Being able to do some small tasks will instill a much-needed quality in a child: confidence.
“Confidence is an important factor,” says Rebecca Little, head of Joseph Bruno Montessori Academy. “Confident children are more independent and are more likely to be able to adapt and handle situations that are new to them. Children should practice things such as hanging up their own jacket and washing their own hands. Developing fine motor skills is also important. Provide your child with opportunities to thread beads on a pipe cleaner, button and fasten clothes, etc. Many fine motor activities relate to practical life applications.”
Other skills like having the ability to express their feelings verbally and playing and sharing with other children can also help a child learning to adapt to a classroom full of other children. “Social skills are important in the classroom setting as well as at home,” Little adds. “Arrange play dates to encourage the development of these social skills prior to entering preschool. Or, look for activities in your community that will give your child the opportunity to engage with other children.”
Don’t Over Prepare
While it’s always helpful when children come to preschool already equipped with social skills and some learning knowledge, parents need not worry about stressing over making sure their child already knows how to do much, such as writing their name, reciting information, or knowing all their numbers. “No preschooler is expected to come into school already knowing how to do all these things,” says Margaret O’Bryant, franchise owner of Primrose School at Liberty Park. “Every child develops and learns at their own pace. A preschool program will hone in on these tasks and help a child develop and learn.”