Attending preschool is now considered an important part of a child's preparation for starting school. It introduces them to the routines of a school day, the social nature of schooling, and the independent thinking required of school age children. Many children love preschool from the first day, but many may take a while to adjust to being separated from their parents and being in the care of other adults.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can help your child to settle in happily to preschool before they've even started.
Book in some pre-start visits to the preschool
Most preschools are happy for you to take your child along to several visits with you in attendance in the lead up to them starting. This is a great way for your child to become familiar with the environment and the caregivers while still feeling secure in your presence.
It's best not to push your child to play or interact with the caregivers or other children at first. Sit with them in a quiet corner until they see a game or toy that they are intrigued with and let them move off at their own pace. At first they may stick closely by your side, but as familiarity grows and their confidence increases they will venture off on their own more often.
Start with short days and gradually increase the time they are there
Many small children experience separation anxiety when their mother or father leaves them at preschool. This is a natural part of child development and decreases as the child becomes secure in the knowledge that their parent will always come back and get them at the end of the day.
Instead of leaving your child at the preschool for a full day it's best to start off with a very short day and gradually increase the time over a period of a few weeks. Begin with leaving them for just an hour, and if that goes well increase to half days for a week or two. The final step is leaving them for a full day, by which time they should feel confident that you'll be there to collect them at the end of the day.
Don't increase their anxiety by showing them yours
You may be feeling anxious about being apart from your child, but it's best to keep this anxiety to yourself. If your child senses that you're worried or sad then this will increase their own fears about starting preschool and being separated from you.
Even if you feel emotional it's best to put on a brave face for your child, and save the tears for when you are alone. If you're starting back at work when your child starts preschool then try to begin the settling in process well in advance. The stress of a new job mixed with concern about your child's welfare is a potent mix which your child will also detect and be negatively affected by.
Rest assured, all children eventually settle in happily to preschool. Although it may take a little longer for some children than others, soon your child will be making friends, playing happily, and taking part in enriching activities.