Your kiddo’s first day of school is a precious memory. Tiny little people in brand new outfits, wearing backpacks almost as big as they are…it’s enough to make our hearts burst! Less precious? All those tears from your little one (and you!) as you separate with them for school for the very first time. We’re here with a few tips to help ease the transition!
BEFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Don’t let drop-off be a surprise for your little one. Spend time talking to them about their school and their classroom, using their teacher’s names, if possible. If you have access to a class roster, organize a few playdates with other families to ensure some friendly faces on the first day of school. Anxiety stems from the unknown, so mitigating some of these unknowns will make the process smoother for everyone.
With children three and under, you don’t need to introduce the idea more than a few days in advance, but don’t underestimate them! Even if you think they’re too young to grasp all you’re saying, your tone of voice will help them work out how to feel about it.
Reading sweet books like I Love You All Day Long, The Kissing Hand, and The Night Before Kindergarten will give you and your little one phrases to use to comfort each other. Relating to fictional characters is a great way for kids both big and little to process milestone events in their lives.
DURING THE SEPARATION PROCESS
If you’re in a preschool program that allows you stay for a certain period of time or incorporate a gradual separation process, follow a simple timeline to help your little one successfully separate.
First, you’ll want to shadow your child through class. Participate alongside them and encourage them to explore their new surroundings with you!
On day two or three, try to sit along the perimeter of the room and become a more silent observer. Let your child move independently throughout the space, while coming back to “check in” with you on occasion.
Most importantly during this time, make an effort to show trust and confidence in their teachers! A child needs to feel comfortable developing a bond with another grownup in order to feel safe when you leave.
TIME TO LEAVE!
As tempting as it may be, don’t sneak away from your little one! A parent or caregiver should always say goodbye when it’s time to leave and confidently say something along the lines of, “Mommy always comes back for you. I will see you after gym!” or “I love you and I will see you at home! Daddy will pick you up when you’re all done with school.”
Letting your child know exactly what’s going to happen and then following through on that plan builds trust. They might have a totally normal and to-be-expected meltdown when you leave, but sneaking out without saying goodbye can delay their ability to feel less anxious in their new surroundings with their new teachers. And those tears? Their teachers are more than ready and prepared to help them through this scary transition.
When your little one is picked up at the end of the day, be exuberant! Show how proud you are of them and reinforce that you came back for them, just like you said you would.
In no time at all, you’ll have a successful separator, ready to confidently take on all the learning and playing that school has to offer.