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Preparing for preschool

preparing for preschool

The start of a new school year-For some of us this comes with great excitement and joy, but for others it’s a time of uncertainty, fear and lots of tears if we’re being honest. And I'm not just talking about the littles. For many, this August or September will mark the end of the little years and the start of a whole new season with school aged children. Whether it’s starting preschool, moving to a different classroom with new teachers, or learning to make new friends, these new milestones and changes often bring anticipation and any number of emotions for parents and kids alike.

For children, not knowing what to expect from this new experience can be a source of anxiety. This is especially true for little ones just starting preschool for the first time - being separated from you and starting something unfamiliar is really hard.  

As you approach this milestone don’t be surprised if you find yourself continuously navigating conflicting emotions. As parents, you may be excited about the fun your kids will have and the new friends they’ll make, but understandably you may also feel sad your baby is growing up (Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you’ve cried already). Many of you may worry about the safety, what group care might look like, and the happiness of your child while you’re not there. These emotions are normal.

Although it’s difficult in the moment, it’s important to remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of child development too. It is natural for young children to feel anxious when you say goodbye. However, with empathy, understanding, and by implementing some of the simple strategies listed below you and your child can be better prepared for the big day. And maybe relieve some of that separation anxiety while you’re at it!

Practice Separation. If your child is starting preschool soon you can practice time apart by leaving them with a caregiver for brief periods of time. This can include a babysitter or dropping them off at a friend’s home for a time while you leave to go run some errands. To be more successful with this do not leave your toddler or preschooler for the first time when they are hungry or tired. (Trust me on that last one!)

Talk about school starting. It’s healthy for children to talk about their feelings. They don’t benefit from “not thinking about it.” In fact, none of us do and things (feelings) often feel lighter when we carry the load together. You can read books about starting school, then talk about the story and how the characters are feeling. Use the opportunity to ask your little one how they’re feeling. Use pretend play to explore the idea of preschool. Take turns being the parent, child and teacher. Let your child ask questions. Be patient and empathetic with their questions and their feelings.  Talking about school and having all their questions answered reduces anxiety while helping children feel more in control.

Play at the new school and get the teacher involved. To increase your child’s comfort with the new setting visit the new school together and see if you can play on the playground a few times before your child starts. To ease your child’s transition into their new classroom it’s helpful if you can meet the teacher beforehand. Share with your child’s teacher about their eating, sleeping and toileting habits. Depending on the class structure, share information about games they like to play, songs they like to sing, and what techniques you use at home to calm your child down when they’re upset or anxious. Developing a team approach with your child’s teacher will undeniably serve you and your child well all year long.

Develop a special good-bye ritual. Rituals are reassuring and comforting for kids. They help your child know what to expect and prepare for what will happen next. They can be as simple as a wave through the window, a special hug, kiss, or a handshake. Develop your special ritual now before school starts so it’s familiar and comfortable to your child when you drop them off at school. And whatever ritual you choose, be consistent. Consistency is key here.

Bring a familiar object. Let your little one bring a little reminder of home. This can be anything that brings comfort and happiness to your child – a favorite toy, a blankie, or a family photo. Comfort objects can provide a real sense of security when children are in an unfamiliar environment. Sometimes a little trinket they can keep in their pocket and feel throughout the day makes a big difference

Don’t sneak away. Tell your child you’re leaving and that you’ll return. Children feel more afraid if you suddenly disappear while they are distracted from you. Reassure your child that he or she will be just fine. Keep your goodbye short and sweet then go- I know this part is usually the toughest for us, but don’t stall. Setting these limits will help your little one with the adjustment period and provides for an easier separation as the days go on.

Keep positive and calm during the separation. Children pick up on your mood. If you are nervous, anxious, or worried your child will pick up on this. If your child sees that you are positive and calm, you provide them with the opportunity to be calm too. 

Remember, starting school or starting a new year with new teachers, new classroom, and new friends is a positive milestone for you and your child. For some kids a complete and successful transition can take months, and that is ok. If your child has a bad reaction to starting preschool or starting a new school year, develop a team approach with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and work together to make school a positive part of your child’s new routine.

Toddlers and preschoolers are incredibly complex, growing at extremely rapid rates in many different areas of development. Part of this this development means ‘trying on’ different behaviors as they seek to understand the world around them. Rarely are there clear-cut answers or magic bullets that will solve all of your parenting challenges while navigating your little ones development. As your parenting coach, I walk beside you through these challenges - giving you insights you may have missed and new strategies to try - but also providing support, encouragement and a place to come back to when a new problem pops up (or an old problem makes a reappearance!)

If you relate to any of this information and want to learn more about how I can help you, or if you want to schedule a free phone conversation to see if my coaching is right for your family, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Heart of Connecting

My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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