First day of preschool! Woohoo! Right? Not for some. For kids and parents alike, the first day of preschool can be the highest of highs or the lowest of lows.
Being nervous about making new friends, being in new locations, and being away from parents can make it hard for kids. And being away from their child and trusting other adults to care for their little one can make any parent anxious. Thankfully, there are things your entire family can do to prepare preschoolers for the first day of school.
Here are five things to remember as the big day approaches.
Talk about it. A lot.
Transition and change can be hard for anyone, especially for those under the age of 5. Whether it’s bedtime or going to school for the first time, not getting the time they need to process what’s happening can be a big reason why kids get overwhelmed by their big emotions and throw tantrums.
Combat this by talking about the first day of school well in advance of the actual first day. Why? Because you want to …
Make school feel familiar.
The more familiar a new place is, the lower the anxiety your child will feel. That doesn’t mean they won’t feel scared or nervous, but every little bit of familiarity helps. If your child’s school has an open house or a “meet the teacher” event, go to it! That way, your child can know:
Who their teacher is.
What their school and classroom look like.
Where they will sit and where important things like bathrooms are located.
How to get to their classroom from the carpool lane.
As you talk to your child, use it as a way to check in and talk about what they’re nervous about. Otherwise, you may not they are particularly worried about where there backpack will be once they get to school,
Also, if your child has spent their entire lives waking up whenever they wanted, suddenly having a wake up time can literally be a rude awakening. Help them establish a morning routine well in advance of their first day of school. That could mean settling on what time you will leave in the morning or the route you’ll take to school. Practice the routine BEFORE your first day of school so your kids will know what to expect and you can work out the kinks.
Get excited about preparing.
Going to school is exciting! Seeing old friends, making new ones, and marking new milestones are all things to celebrate. So, as the parent, make sure to include your child in preparing for the big day. Take them shopping for supplies and clothes with you instead of doing it by yourself. If they’re nervous about their first day, knowing they’ll get to wear the new shoes they picked out or carry the backpack they chose can make the first day a little less nerve wracking.
Back to point no. 1, use this preparation time together to talk about how exciting school will be and how proud you are of them for going. Check in and see if there is anything specific bothering them that you can help address.
Remind them it’s okay to feel big.
The last thing to tell a kid who is anxious about going back to school is that there’s nothing to be nervous about. Let them know it’s completely understandable why they’d be nervous and that you’re proud of them for being brave by working through their anxiety.
Talk with your kids about ways to stay calm in case their anxiety starts to overwhelm them. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and getting up and moving are all options. Find the one that works for them.
Face your own anxieties.
If this is the first time you are putting a child in preschool — or if your child has health concerns or developmental delays — you may be feeling more stress that your child is about their first day. Unfortunately, kids are experts at reading their parents. If you feel stressed and anxious, they’ll know it regardless of how much you smile and tell them everything will be fine.
Find time to address your own fears in the same way you’ve been helping your child address theirs. Identify what’s making you nervous, talk with your child’s school about any concerns you have, and reach out to other parents who may have answers to your nagging questions. The better you feel about your child’s first day, the better your child will feel, too.
The first day of preschool is a big milestone for your little one. Celebrate with them, encourage them, and help them feel comfortable about this big new change in their life. Soon, they’ll be sprinting to the car lane to tell you all about how much fun they had that day. And you can feel great about the incredible investment you are making in your little one’s life through early childhood education.