As the summer winds down, and with September almost upon us, parents (myself included) can’t help but feel both scared and excited for back-to-school days. The prospect of getting back into a routine — and the promise of planning out that first week, from outfits to lunches — almost made our first day of preschool stress-free.
Once that day comes, you may experience the same fears that I did — worries that your child might cling to you like the last Cheerio left in the bowl, or that your child might hate everything about preschool.
Parents, if you find yourself sobbing, “It’s my baby’s first day of school” (guilty!), try these tips to help sprinkle the first day of preschool with the little things that will make you feel fearless, organized, and heroic:
Show off your pre-planning superpowers by taking the time to visit your child’s preschool together before school starts. Play on the playground a couple times before the first day. Every time you drive by, casually point out the preschool. If there is an open house, make sure you attend. Set up a meet-and-greet with your child and the teacher so that your child will recognize the teacher on the first day.
With each new visit, you will help increase your child’s comfort and confidence level to help prepare for the first day of preschool.
If you know another child who will be in your child’s class (perhaps you met other families at the open house), reach out to schedule playdates before school starts. That way, your child will recognize a familiar face or two, even in a relatively unfamiliar place.
Remember to breathe, exhale, and repeat. Even the most organized parent can get off track on the first day when trying to wake up an unpredictable preschooler. From wardrobe wars to breakfast battles, put your cape on, and plan for the worst!
Set an alarm at a reasonable time to start the morning routine process earlier than usual. Have your own outfit picked out and lunch prepped the night before for a quick exit to the Bat Mobile (or minivan).
Plan to give yourself enough time to arrive at school a little early. Feeling rushed can increase your anxiety — and, in turn, your child’s.
Arriving early will also allow your child to re-meet the teacher in your presence to ease the transition. With permission, you can also take a brief classroom tour, which offers a great opportunity to help get your child settled in. As you do this, point out things that are familiar — books, toys, and anything that might remind your child of home.
Parents, leave the camera and boxes of tissues at home. Your child is already feeling overwhelmed, and your anxiety can be contagious.
Snap a few photos to let your child know you are proud, but don’t hover. Once you’ve established a solid foundation of comfort and confidence, prepare yourself for a short and sweet hug goodbye.
After school, start the conversation with your child about how each of your days went. You can share openly and positively the challenges, joys, and interests of your own day. Then, ask specific questions, such as, “Tell me about the games you played at school today,” or, “Tell me about the new friends you made.” Try to pose open-ended questions to spark a conversation, and really listen to the report your child gives.
Settle into a routine of asking your child about a favorite thing that happened at school that day. Then, start incorporating at-home activities, whether it’s homework from the teacher or an after-school learning activity, that you can do together. Also, be sure to stay in touch with the teacher. This will help keep you informed of your child’s progress. And stay connected to other parents, too. You can share information and experiences, and continue to foster your children’s budding friendships.
Sheryl Simonitis is the Vice President of Marketing at Noodle, the leading website that helps parents and students make better education decisions. Prior to joining Noodle, Sheryl performed key marketing roles at FreshDirect, CollegeBound, and Barnes&Noble.com. Sheryl holds an EMBA from Pace University and BS from The College of New Jersey. She served in the US Peace Corps in Lesotho, Southern Africa as a college professor for two years. An avid reader and part-time entrepreneur, she lives in New Jersey with her husband.
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