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Tips to ease those preschool jitters
August 1st, 2012
You’ve picked the perfect school for your pint-sized pupil-to-be. Next step — getting your little one ready for this major milestone.
Maybe it’s just half a day, but it’s also the first day of the first year of a school career that will last many years. As proud as you are of your child (and as precious as she looks with her brand new backpack on), you may also be feeling anxious — especially if this is their first debut away from home without you — and a tad sad about letting go.
Their feelings may be all over the emotional map, too — feeling excited one moment, apprehensive the next.
Knowing that topsy-turvy emotions are only natural when change is in the air can help both of you adjust — and so can some smart preschool prep. Here are some end-of-summer strategies to take the jitters out of that first day of preschool — for both of you.
• Get your child’s sleep schedule in sync for school.
In the weeks leading up to preschool, gradually adjust your little one’s bedtime and wake-up call. Send them to bed ten minutes earlier each night and get them up ten minutes earlier each morning until you reach a wake-up hour that’s compatible with the new school schedule.
For a less-stressed start to school mornings, make sure you build in enough time for getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, and cuddles — all at a preschooler’s pace.
If the program is all-day, find out when naptime is scheduled; you’ll want to slowly synchronize naptime at home with the school’s.
Make it sound fun, but don’t talk it up so much that you make your tot feel suspicious or set her up for disappointment. Just as important: Don’t introduce the idea of being scared or nervous.
Point out similarities between the books you are sharing and the school your child will be attending. (“Your classroom has an art studio and building area, too!”)
If your child is stress-prone, stay away from books that tackle anxiety to share with them, but be sure to prepare yourself and discuss with the professionals at your school various tactics to help your child manage and cope with this anxiety for a smoother transition.
Have them practice packing their new backpack. And if they will be staying the whole day, let them eat out of their new lunchbox at home.
Many quality preschools offer a “family-teacher meet & greet.” You want to be certain not to miss this opportunity. It’s a great way to meet the faculty and other families your child will be spending the year with in a very comfortable environment. It’s a great ice-breaker.
Don’t forget to consider some play dates with your child’s new classmates if your little one hasn’t spent much time with other children. This will get her used to sharing toys, taking turns, and playing cooperatively in groups. Plus, she’ll have the benefit of recognizing familiar faces that first day.
Though you can’t prepare for everything that may come up, these tips will ease the anxiety for both of you on the first day of preschool.
And if the first day goes smoothly, but the weeks ahead pose some challenges for your new student, remember you are not alone. Many of us have experienced such challenges, and continue to do so at various phases in our children’s lives.
Talk with the professionals at your child’s school. Remember, they are the experts and they are there for your child — and for you, too.
Rachel Greenspan is director of Gan Ami Beginnings, Preschool & Kindergarten of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.