You’ve been buying back to school supplies and stuffing them in backpacks and cubby boxes for the classroom. A backpack stuffed with supplies like crayons, paper and glue sticks are waiting by the front door. The highly important first-day-of-school outfit is hanging on the door, and the snack you've made to share with the class is wrapped and ready to go. Being the great parents you are you have also been talking to your child about how awesome his new friends and teacher will be, and all the amazing things they will be able to do and learn.
But today is day one of preschool and here’s what you can expect:
The Crying Game
Even if not on the very first day, crying is very normal in the early part of starting school for a preschooler. A child, screaming, holding on to mom or dad’s legs for dear life, refusing to even look at the classroom, much less walk into it alone. Relax. It’s normal. Kids this age thrive on familiarity so when they are placed into a new situation, it’s common if they panic a little bit.
Saying goodbye to mom and dad, particularly if it’s the first time out of the house alone, can be difficult for many preschoolers. The key is to make sure you are ready for your child to go to preschool. If you have any doubt or concerns, your child is going to pick up on it immediately. So on the big day, keep a bright smile on your face and stay positive. This will set a great tone for your child and make them realize that going to preschool is something they can and should look forward to.
In any case, crying children is nothing new to a preschool teacher. In most cases, they’ll encourage you to leave. It will probably be the hardest thing you’ll have to do, but it really does work.
Nine out of ten times, the child stops crying within five minutes of the parent leaving. You’ll return to the classroom a few hours later to find your child, happy and content with a pile of artwork they can’t wait to show you. If the preschool teacher can’t get your child to calm down, they’ll be in touch. Trust in their experience and know they have your child’s best interest at heart.
It’s a group effort!
If your child has been in the classroom before, draw on that visit. Point out things they may remember, whether it was an orientation or a trip to meet the teacher. Say things like, “Hey, there are those blocks you played with the last time we were here. Remember how you built that great tower? Maybe you could do that again.”
The great thing about the first day of preschool is that there are a whole bunch of people in the room that are going through the same exact thing as you. If you work together as a team, it becomes that much easier and that much more fun. Point out a child that your preschooler may know from another activity or the neighborhood, or, if she doesn't know anyone, help her to make her first friend. Walk up to the child and her mom and/or dad, point to your child and say, “Hi, this is Isabelle. We really like your Princess shirt. Can we sit here with you?” With a little luck, the other parent will pick up on your idea and introduce her child.
The Leaving is the Hardest Part
For yours, the teachers, and your child’s sake - Do not remove your child from the classroom. It makes it that much harder to bring him back in. Your child’s teacher will likely be right by your side offering help and assistance.
It might be tempting, but don’t sneak away if your child becomes distracted by another activity. Your child needs to learn that school is a place she goes to without mom or dad and saying goodbye is part of the process.
Don’t ask if it’s OK for you to leave and don’t make promises like, “If you stay here at preschool, I’ll buy you some ice cream when I pick you up.” This can reinforce the behavior if she keeps getting what she wants.
If your child does well on the first day, be prepared, you aren’t out of the woods just yet. Some children waltz right into preschool as happy as can be and everyone is content. But then, out of nowhere, a few weeks into the school year, your child may start to cry when you leave. This too is very common. Basically the novelty of school has worn off and your child realizes that she isn’t with you. Keep bringing her to school and dropping her off as per the teacher’s instructions, this too shall pass.
Hang in there folks, you’re doing great!
This is the first day of about 2 decades of schooling, and yes – it gets better.