Although 87% of five-year-olds were enrolled in preprimary programs during 2015, the first day of preschool can be tough for both children and parents. Getting used to a new routine can be a real challenge — and even experienced adults may not always adjust to an unfamiliar environment with grace.
It’s no surprise, then, that many preschoolers experience separation anxiety when they head off to class for the first time. But contrary to popular belief, the first day of preschool doesn’t have to be traumatic. With these suggestions in mind, you’ll be able to prioritize preschool preparation and reduce the risk of a meltdown.
Have Realistic Expectations
Some preschool students are able to adjust to their new schedule right away and have no problem making new friends. But don’t automatically expect a smooth transition from your child. If your child is on the younger side of your preschool’s age requirements or has always exhibited obvious emotional attachment, they may have a difficult time. Keep in mind that both scenarios are completely normal. While it’s good to encourage your child to try new things, you can’t expect miracles. Your kiddo simply won’t have the coping skills you do, as those took you many years to develop. If you keep your expectations in check, you’ll likely make this change a lot easier to handle — for both of you.
Don’t Be Dismissive
You might be tempted to brush off your child’s concerns so that they won’t work themselves up. But even though you know that everything will be fine, you might want to refrain from saying something like, “trust me, there’s nothing to worry about.” Your child might want to believe you, but their anxiety can often make any kind of rational thinking completely impossible. While you shouldn’t let your own anxiety influence your child, one of the best things you can do is to acknowledge how they’re feeling. Helping them take some deep breaths, for example, and visualize positive or familiar situations can help alleviate some of those initial panicked emotions. So can reassuring them that being scared or worried happens to all of us on occasion — and that these emotions do serve an important purpose. By utilizing empathy, tried-and-true calming techniques, and focusing on solutions (rather than trying to wish their worries away), you’ll have a much easier start to the first day of preschool.
Personify Their Worry
Ignoring your child’s anxiety will not help them. In fact, it will usually make those feelings a lot stronger and can even cause your child to question whether something is wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Instead, take the opportunity to create a character out of their anxiety. By bringing their feelings of worry or stress to life as a person or creature they can recognize and communicate with, your child can work through their feelings and start to work on building emotional intelligence. They’ll gain the ability to separate their rational thought process from their anxiety, allowing them to role play at home or at school when their anxiety starts to spin out of control. If you work on this prior to the first day of preschool, you’ll be able to remind your child about what to do when they feel like this character is taking over.
Even if you’ve chosen the highest quality preschool program available in your area, that doesn’t always mean that this initial adjustment will go off without a hitch. By keeping these tips in mind prior to the first day, you and your child can minimize your separation anxiety and gain valuable skills that have uses far beyond the classroom. To learn more about our programs and whether our facility is the right one for your child, please contact us today.