Starting preschool is a major transition for many parents. It feels like the first step of your child growing up. My friends and I all posted how we finally felt like “real parents”, packing a lunch and a backpack for our children.
My firstborn started preschool at 2 years 10 months, which was his first time in group child care. Not only was he my first, but I worked flexible jobs and strained myself to complete projects during naptime and after bedtime, with the occasional Dora to cover conference calls. The month that preschool started was full of changes. I was 8 months pregnant, due in October, and our au pair started in late August. Added challenge: my son is shy (but not introverted).
Similarly, my second recently started preschool at 22 months, and while she’s been visiting the school since birth, she has never been in group child care. At the same time, her au pair is returning to France, so we have the caregiver separation to handle.
Our preschool offers a gentle separation — children slowly increase time at school and have time to bond with the teachers. Not all schools separate this way, and I was seriously worried that I’d be spending a month at preschool while each child clung to me. My son pleasantly surprised me. My daughter just started, so I will need to update you.
Here are tips that can help with the process:
Visit the school in advance to meet the teachers and see the classroom.
Make a photo book with pictures of family, so that your child can look at it when he feels lonely.
- Encourage your child to bond with the teachers. That relationship will allow your child to feel comfortable in your absence.
Point out toys and activities in the room, and start your child playing with something before you leave.
Always say goodbye and remind her that you will return and when.
Pack foods that are easy to eat without help. Check out this blog post in which I share a list of lunch ideas.
Include in the lunch box a note (using pictures if your child can’t read yet), and a small treat.
- Plan a good-bye lunch with your child’s former caregiver. Ask if you could skype or email or meet occasionally.
- Remind your child that she can love her caregiver and also love her new teachers. Just like a child loves you and her caregivers, her aunts, uncles and grandparents, she can love many people. This message has helped my children quickly bond with our new au pair while they are still grieving the loss of their last one.