As the time flows in the shape of a quiet routine, a day is approaching that is different from all the other days. The first time at preschool. So far, she used to curl up in the mornings, in her favorite blanket. She had a hard time waking up and ate even harder. She was angry, stubborn, scared. But, there were always the loved ones around that reassured her, filling her with confidence. She smiled calmly, looking at the familiar faces of the people who raised her, every day. She always tried and eventually managed, to catch the attention of the adults, by playing.
Now, she has to break away from her safe routine and adapt to a new one. She must gradually learn to co-exist with others. To share. To wait. Leave her favorite environment to be in a place, where no one and nothing will be familiar to her. How will the child be able to move into the new reality of school? How will she manage to integrate smoothly?
Let’s keep in mind the inevitable fact: separation is a blow to kids’ sensitive minds. It’s an event that perhaps, is the first, most important change in their lives. The separation from the familiar environment and the change to the new environment of Pre-kindergarten or Kindergarten, is experienced by the infants or toddlers as a blow. Sometimes less, sometimes more. This doesn’t mean, of course, that there is nothing you can do about it. On the contrary, the way you choose to handle this situation can be crucial, helping your child significantly. But what can you do in practice, in order to prepare your kid better for the first time at preschool?
Prepare your child
You have got plenty of time ahead, until the first time at preschool. So, talk to your child in a simple and clear way. Explain that she will go to schoo. Mention which hours of the day she will attend it. Who will pick her up after, the daily schedule etc. Depending on the age and communication level of the child, adapt properly what you say. Add details and answer any questions. The conversation can also arise through a game or with the help of a relevant book.
In any case, it’s necessary to discuss with the child, about the new daily life that she is going to experience. Even if it’s an infant, don’t get mistaken believing that you don’t need to tell her anything, because she won’t understand you. Babies understand much more than you think. Even if she is, for example, 8 months old. Talk to her simply and clearly (in normal speech, not “baby” speech). While she is looking at you and believe it or not, she will understand you.
Create socialization opportunities
Keep in mind that children who have already developed socializing skills with peers, cousins, siblings, etc. and have experienced games with peer groups, co-existing harmoniously or sharing, will probably, adjust much easier and smoother to the first time at preschool . As long as this is possible and again depending on the age of the child, give her opportunities to interact with other people, outside the family environment.
Focus on good school-parent collaboration
A school is staffed by educators/teachers, who are well aware of the ways to support both you and your child, in the process of “leaving” home and moving smoothly to school reality. One of school’s main issues, is the building of a good communicative relationship with the parents. When looking for the right Preschool Education Center, observe the attitude of the teaching staff and elaborate the information. Did it make you feel welcomed from the first moment? Was there a willingness to cooperate? Did you feel that your child would be in a warm and safe environment? If so, then perhaps indeed, it’s the most appropriate school environment. The one that through the good co-operation with you, will build a bridge, in order to help the child to enter the new reality and gradually develop.
Visit the school with the child
Consult with the Pre-kindergarten or Kindergarten, where the child is going to attend, to schedule a visit or more, for the child’s initial communication with the school. In this way, she will be given the opportunity to get to know the school environment, in quiet moments, away from the intensity of the first days. Familiarity with the various spaces, the yard, the classroom, but also the first contact with the teachers, will clearly be another reinforcing factor in the adaptation of the child.
Make sure you give daily explanations
You may have done all the preparation needed, but in practice, when every morning you have to leave the school and your child cries reacting loudly, everything looks like a mountain. Now, is the time to keep yourself cool. In the most calm and steady voice possible, greet your child and explain that you will have to leave and that you will return to pick her up, at noon. If you are not going to pick up the child, let her know, who will. You can tell her, for example, that when it’s noon, she can look out of the classroom window at the front door and see you arrive.
But be careful. Do not lie, under any circumstances. Be completely consistent in what you say. If something unexpected happens and you are late, explain what happened and promise that this will not happen every time. This process, will need to be repeated for some time. Although, your child will gradually realize that you don’t disappear whenever you leave. Every time, she sees you consistently returning to pick her up, as you have explained. The feeling of security will gradually grow inside of her. That will be the basis of the smooth change to the new environment.
Create a home-school continuum
Let the child, if she insists, take her favorite item from home to school with her. This could be a toy, a blanket or something else. This object is of particular importance during her adaptation, because it’s the connection between home and school. Also, every morning, you can give your own item to the child, such as a keychain or an old pair of keys and you will ask her to give you in return, her own toy. You will make an agreement that the two items will “meet again” at noon, when you will pick her up from school. This process can be repeated, until the child creates the continuity of home-school, without the mediation of external objects. Do not force the child to abandon this process. The time will come when she won’t need the items.
Give your child time
In some cases, a child’s difficulty adapting over the time, may require further investigation (such as, a completely inappropriate school environment may, for example, be responsible for this.) Under normal circumstances, each child follows her own individual rhythm. Depending on their experiences and temperaments, some children will adapt to school sooner, while other may need more time. Be by their side with patience, love and understanding and everything will be fine.
The change from home to school is a stage that every preschooler will go through, at some point in time. Good organization and cool attitude on your part are those points that will actually support her. The more secure a child feels, the stronger the foundations of adaptation to her new reality will become.
Tell me about your experience, from the first time at preschool with your child!
Elena Alexia-Preschool Teacher
Facebook: @Elena Alexia