As the end of the summer approaches, many children will be starting preschool for the first time – and many parents will be feeling anxious, wondering how their child is going to settle in and how they can help them to do so gently and peacefully.
Before I go any further, I want to preface this post by saying – I don’t think that children need preschool (in fact, I don’t think that children need school! But that’s a whole other post coming soon…) and I don’t buy into the current pressure for children to go to preschool as standard practice to “prepare them” for school.
That said, I know that many families feel that they need to send their children to preschool for a variety of reasons, and for many families having their child attend sessions at a wonderful, play-based kindergarten, preschool, Forest School or Children’s House can be an enriching and joyful addition to the family rhythm.
Having a positive and peaceful start to your child’s preschool experience can make a huge difference to the whole family.
If your child will be starting preschool soon, here are some things you might like to consider to help make the transition more peaceful for all of you:
- If your mornings are currently slow-paced, practice getting into the habit of getting up, dressed, fed, and out of the house at the time you’ll need to leave for preschool. It might feel annoying when you want to spend the last few weeks taking it slow, but it will make the transition so much smoother if you have your morning rhythm down. Also consider if you need to help your child shift their bedtime so that they’ll be waking up at the right time.
- Get a copy of the preschool daily rhythm so that you can paint a visual picture for your child of what their days will look like. You can get really specific, talking through what your mornings will be like, who will drop them off, what drop-off will be like, what they will do at preschool, and who will pick them up and where they will be waiting. This really helps your child visualise what will happen to them and helps to reduce overwhelm.
- When discussing how it will be when they start preschool, you can also talk about the different emotions they may feel; excited, brave, shy, worried, happy, sad, fun, and so on. Rather than shying away from the fact that they may find parts of it hard, talk about these in advance and be open about it: “You may find that at times you miss me, and wish you were at home – other children might miss their mummies and daddies sometimes too, it’s normal to miss people we love when we’re not with them. I’ll miss you too! But I’ll always be there to pick you up again at lunchtime. If you feel sad you can tell your teacher and she will be able to give you a cuddle.”
- You could also tell your child stories about when you started school, or make up stories about a child or little animal just like your child who is also about to start preschool. Stories are a great way to help your child process their feelings in a way that feels very safe and nurturing. Reading “starting school” books can also help, although it is harder to find preschool specific ones.
- If your child has a comfort object, pack it in their bag. It may help to purchase some spares and rotate these, so that each one is acceptable in case one goes missing!
- Your child will likely be more tired than usual when settling into their new preschool rhythm, so you may want to keep the rest of their week very lightly scheduled until they’re comfortably settled in.
- Be aware that your child will likely have some big emotions to deal with when back at home. Children are often really good at keeping it together whilst at childcare but save their big emotions for when they’re back in a safe space, ie. with you. This is normal – they are dealing with some big changes! You can support them by holding their space whist they express themselves, lots of love, cuddles and reassurance, and reminding yourself how very little they still are if it feels like they have “regressed”. This post on how to support your child during tantrums might help, as might this one on keeping calm.
- It is completely normal and understandable to be worried about how your child will settle into preschool. But sometimes that worry can unwittingly be transmitted to your child; children have an uncanny ability to pick up on our feelings! If you’re feeling anxious about them settling in then try to visualise them settling in really well, so that you feel more confident when you talk to your child about it.
- Trust your gut. Sometimes, a childcare setting ends up not being a good fit for your child and family. You know your child best – trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to look for a different setting if something doesn’t feel right.
Want to bring more ease and joy into your life with your young children, as you craft a childhood for them that is truly beautiful? Let’s work together to make it happen.