Get Your Little One Preschool Ready!

schoolanxiety
Image via Katie Hurley

Despite her quiet nature, my daughter wears her feelings on her sleeve. So when a big transition has her anxious (say, for example, every new classroom she enters), I know the signs of worry. She holds me close, she clams up, and silent tears stream down her face. But my son? Totally different story.

My son is an internalizer by nature, and he's really good at playing ball. He follows directions without question (sometimes even to a fault, but that's another story), he doesn't cry at the door, and he throws himself into things that he knows he needs to do – even if he's petrified. In quiet moments, however, the big feelings emerge. Three weeks into his first year of preschool, he sobbed in my arms, telling me that he missed me all day long (three hours a day, twice a week.) It broke my heart.

Preschool can be a big transition for little ones. Whether they've been home with a parent or in a different child-care setting, preschool marks a big change. Even in a play-based program, it's easy to see how things change once little ones go from childcare to preschool.

While some little ones make the transition with ease, others struggle. Some regress. Some cry at drop-off for days, weeks, or even months. Some get run down and catch every cold that comes their way.

Parents can help kids prepare for the transition before preschool begins. Yes, there will be peaks and valleys as your child adjusts, and no school is perfect, but a little preschool prep goes a long way toward helping kids ease into their new environments.

Normalize emotions

Many kids experience shifting emotions as they approach preschool. They might be excited and happy one moment and falling apart the next. This is perfectly normal when a big transition is on the horizon, and it’s important to normalize these feelings. Empathize with your child. Try to remember how you felt at the beginning of a new school year and share your stories.

Listen to your child's worries. While it is tempting to jump right to reassurance, kids need to verbalize their fears and worries. Listen to completion before helping your child problem-solve solutions.

Letting my son explain his worry list helps him vent his fears and gives me a better understanding of his specific worries about things. Once he has the opportunity to verbalize his feelings, we move forward by tackling one worry at a time. 

{ MORE: Still Having Separation Anxiety at School? }

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Get Your Little One Preschool Ready!

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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