How does it happen so quickly? One moment your child is a little baby, dependent on you for every little thing, and the next moment you are looking at dropping them off at preschool, where you hope they will make their first friends. Nerves bubble up. Will my baby be ok without me? What if he cries? What if a child hits him? Packing that first lunch brings parenthood to a different level. You are now a school parent.
My elder started preschool just before he turned three, his first time in group care. 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.
My second started preschool just before turning two, but she had visited the school almost daily since birth, so even as her first group child care, was an easier transition.
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 did wonderfully as well, as expected.
Here are tips that can help with the process:
- Visit the school in advance to meet the teachers and see the classroom.
- Read a book about starting preschool, such as Llama Llama Misses Mama or My First Day at Nursery School.
- 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 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.