Preparing Your Child For Preschool
It is well known that there are many benefits to preschool. Children who have the opportunity to attend preschool have been found to be better prepared to succeed and appear to get the most out of each grade at school.
The benefits of preschool are not limited to merely academic success. Preschool is really for socialization—a place to teach your children to learn and play in groups and to interact with peers and adults. More importantly, it teaches kids that learning can be fun.
How do you go about preparing your child for preschool? How soon should you do it?
Dr. Deborah Gilboa, family physician and parenting expert, says, “In some ways, we are always preparing our kids for school. We teach them to wait, to ask nicely for things, to share, [to] take turns, and to stop whining. All of the parenting work we are doing is to get our kids out into the world. Most of the ‘prep' work we do to actually send them to preschool is work on ourselves! We are the ones who end up choosing the school, deciding on the schedule, and gearing up to let them go.”
The first big step is obviously choosing the right preschool. So we've done our research, we've taken our kids to see the place, and we've finally gotten them signed up. What can we then do to prepare them once we've picked a preschool?
Dr. Gilboa advises that we should be upbeat and assume the best. She suggests that we say, “I'm so excited that you GET to go to preschool! What a big boy you're becoming!” She also emphasizes that we should visit the preschool, meet the teachers, play outside school with a few of the kids who will be together with yours in the class, read some books about preschool, and answer any questions your child has.
Most importantly, do not lie. If your child asks if you will be there, just give a calm “No. You'll spend a few hours with your teacher and friends, and then I'll come back to pick you up.” She also suggests to practice leaving your child with a sitter or family member prior to starting preschool so they can build trust in the pattern: Drop off, miss you, play without you, get picked up.
The big day comes. First day of preschool! Dr. Gilboa advises that the best way to get through this day is to stress as little as possible. Don't cry, or if you do, then don't cry where your child can see or hear you. If you do, it will upset your child and trigger an emotional response on their part. Be excited and happy for them, and your mood will be infectious!
However, not all children will love preschool immediately. The first week is always the hardest for everyone, and for children who are a little shy and not used to not spending the day with their parents, this week can be especially tough. The best way to help your child cope is to build resilience—mostly your own. According to Dr. Gilboa, many kids would rather be with their parents than with anyone else.
She says, “If you have good reasons for wanting or needing to send your child to preschool, and believe you've picked a good one with teachers who know what they are doing, then you just need to show your child empathy without letting them see your inner struggle. The best way to teach your child the skill of saying goodbye and going on to have a good day is usually to build a routine—just like with bedtime. Put your bag away, show me one thing in the classroom, give me a hug and a kiss, and ‘Bye!' If you feel your child is still miserable, this is a great time to ask your child's teacher what you can do differently.”
Above all, hang on in there. Your child will soon be used to the routine of going to preschool, and they WILL enjoy themselves. It's also a great opportunity for you to reclaim some time to yourself—to do whatever it is that needs to be done or even just relax and enjoy a couple of hours of respite. Preschool is good for kids AND parents!
Did your child attend preschool? What did he or she love most about it?