This article appears in our December 2015 issue of Indy’s Child Parenting Magazine. Flip through it here or pick up a copy today at your local Marsh or Kroger store, YMCA, public library or community center.
Preschool is a big transition for kids. It’s a bridge between toddlerhood and Kindergarten, and the change can make even the most excited little student a little anxious. If you’ve got a preschooler at home, try these tips for helping him navigate this exciting (but sometimes scary) new world.
1. Get yourself excited
“One way to really help a preschooler love school is for the parent to love school,” says April Reynolds, Director of W.E.E. Care Preschool & Kindergarten in Indianapolis. “Preschoolers are highly perceptive to their parent’s emotional investments and reactions,” she explains. “If you as the parent are emotionally invested, and most importantly, involved in and supportive of your child’s school, then your child will follow suit.”
Reynolds stresses that a parent’s enthusiasm must be authentic. “You can’t fake this,” she says. “You actually have to love the preschool you chose for your child.” She suggests taking the time to research, visit schools, ask questions and above all “stick to your parent intuition when deciding on the best preschool for your child.”
2. Address your own anxiety
As Reynolds says, children pick up on how their parents react to situations. Decrease any feelings of anxiety you have by taking the time really understand the policies and practices of the preschool you choose so that any fears you have are addressed. Make sure you know how to contact your child’s teacher and feel comfortable that staff will make time to address any concerns you have. When you feel informed and prepared, you will be more relaxed and your child will pick up on that vibe.
3. Establish a quick drop off routine
Focus on quick but meaningful drop off rituals, like a high five or a kiss followed by a quick goodbye. Extended, emotional goodbyes are hard on parents, students and teachers. Be ready to change up your drop off routine as the year progresses. You may find that your goodbye ritual can be shortened as your child becomes more and more comfortable going to school.
4. Get involved
“Fundamental growth and student readiness and success, especially as your student gets older, is highly dependent upon a parent’s support and involved in that child’s school,” Reynolds says. “Preschool is not just an excellent way for children to become acclimated to an academic environment, it’s an excellent way for parents as well to learn their important role in their child’s academic career, which just begins in preschool.”
If possible, volunteer to read a book to the class, join classroom parties or find other ways to become involved in your child’s preschool activities. Your child will love having you share in their world.
5. Be positive and specific when talking about preschool
Be mindful of the way you discuss preschool at home in front of your child. Jannis Strasser of the National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests celebrating your child’s small, specific successes. For example, “Tell her that you are proud of the way she tried to print her name,” she says. “Don’t expect perfection. If your child was perfect, she wouldn’t have to go to school.”
6. Add some helpful books to your bookshelf
Many books are available that are designed to help kids overcome preschool anxiety and get excited to attend school. Try these titles for a good place to start: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, Mommy Always Comes Back by Penny Schnee-Bosch and Llama, Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney.
7. Keep things simple
Avoid battles over things like what to wear or eating a big meal before the school day. Keep your focus on the more important goals of preschool. Also, Strasser suggests not dwelling on how many friends a child is making. “This is too abstract for most young children, and their friends change by the minute,” she says. Instead, ask open-ended questions like “Tell me about some of the children in your class.” Most children will settle into a routine at preschool and grow to enjoy their time away from home within a few months. However, if your child seems increasingly anxious as time goes on, consult with the preschool director and your child’s teacher to address any stumbling blocks that are getting in the way of your child enjoying this important milestone experience. Helping your preschooler love school will make the transition to Kind ergarten that much easier!
Sarah’s background in professional writing and editing includes a focus on parenting, entertainment and lifestyle topics. A Cincinnati native, Sarah is a mother to two boys and dedicates much of her time to their homeschool education.