If you ever had to go to a meeting or networking event where you didn’t know anyone, you know about that daunting feeling. Your toddler is about to go to her first big networking event, attending her first day of preschool, nursery school or kindergarten. It’s a major milestone and can be super exciting. It can also make you both feel a little anxious. What will you do with yourself while she’s at school? Will she make friends easily? Will you both cry at the thought of leaving each other? You and your child may be proud of this momentous occasion. Your child may also experience separation anxiety due to being away from you for longer than they’re used to; change is hard. These are all normal feelings that will be but a memory before too long.
Preparing for the big day
1) When preparing for the big day- keep your efforts low-key
This is very important! Don’t make too much of a fuss out of this because your child may become more worried than excited.
2) Play ‘school’ at home with dolls, stuffed animals and action figures
Set up a pretend classroom and mimic some of the scenarios likely to take place such as reading time, music time and snack time. Let her use her new backpack and lunch box as part of the play, practicing hanging the backpack on a hook or placing it in a cubby and setting out her snack from the lunchbox. Clean up is a pretty popular task in a preschool classroom where everyone is involved, so include that in your play.
3) Play dates
The thought of going to a new place and not knowing anyone might be scary so see if you can obtain a list of students who will be in the same class. Set up a play date or two to see where friendships might blossom. Jitters may turn into excitement as your sweetheart looks forward to seeing a new friend at school.
4) Visit the classroom and introduce your child to her teacher
Very often, the school will host an open house prior to the first day. She’ll see where she’ll hang up her jacket, where circle time will be and the many activities that are ahead. This will help familiarize your little one with her upcoming new surroundings.
5) The big day has arrived
Even if you’re having more anxiety than your child, put on a happy face. She’ll pick up on any nervousness you might have, so keep the mood upbeat and happy. Be brave, mama!
6) Lovey rules
If your preschooler has a lovey, be sure you know what the rule is about bringing it along to school. This may be the object of tantrums and tears, so be prepared with a plan. Offer to personally babysit Teddy assuring your tiny tot that Teddy will be safe at home awaiting her return. If the school doesn’t allow the lovey, they might allow a photo in your toddler’s cubby where she can sneak a peek during the day. More than likely the teachers will have a hands-on welcome activity planned so that the kids are busy and can’t hold onto the lovey at the same time.
7) When it’s time for you to leave, don’t sneak out
When it’s time for you to leave, don’t sneak out. Your child may feel more fearful if you suddenly disappear. Say good-bye and leave promptly. You don’t want your actions to reinforce that you are somehow leaving her in a bad place.
8) Good-bye ritual
Create a good-bye ritual that’s special for the two of you only. Put on a little lipstick and kiss your child’s hand. The lipstick usually stays in place and your child will be a reassured every time he looks at his hand. You can also create a butterfly kiss, a squeezy hug, a secret phrase or anything that makes the farewell gesture your own. This regular happy habit will signal it’s time to separate for a little while.
9) Assurances and I love you’s
Assure the newest pupil that you will return to scoop her up at the end of the school session. When you arrive, reiterate that promise. Don’t forget to layer that assurance with lots of I love you’s!
10) Be consistent with your home schedule
When it comes to naps, snacks and bedtime, it’s best to tow the line on the timing of these routines. It will mimic and reinforce the structure of the classroom and set expectations for the whole family.
Parting is such sweet sorrow and no doubt, the preschool teachers have seen it all before. They will most likely have a process in place to deal with the tearful goodbyes. Trust their experience and take their direction. It may be difficult, but ultimately, they have your child’s best interests at heart. Chances are a few hours later you’ll pick up a bubbly tot bursting at the seams to tell you all about the “bestest” first day of school. She’s a big girl now!