Starting preschool is no easy feat, for both children and their parents. A baby is with their parents for the majority of the day from the very first breath they take. Their parents are the center of their world and the people who respond to their every need. No one can replace mom or dad.
This wonderful relationship changes when it’s time to start daycare or preschool. The whole world this little boy or girl has known their entire life is about to change. Each year, when it’s time to start school again, the emotions and reactions will be different. There may be many feelings that come with putting your child into daycare, it’s a personal and important decision. Hours and hours go into researching the best place to send your kids. Despite knowing all the benefits that preschool offers for a growing and developing child, it doesn’t make the transition that much easier. However, knowing what the different stages are and how to approach them can be helpful.
As educators at Mis Amigos we are very familiar with all of these stages and are keenly aware of them as new children are welcomed into our school. We know the importance of feeling at home, comfortable, and in a safe place. Our goal is to always make sure we are communicating with both the families and children to make sure everyone is having the best experience possible. Our school is like a second home.
Newborns to Toddlers
The first phase that 0-2 years old experience is separation anxiety. It is one of the first times they are away from the world they are so familiar with and they don’t have a good understanding of how long they will be away. There is an innate fear that they will be abandoned forever. At 6 months old babies start to recognize that there are strangers. The natural immediate reaction to being left at school is fear and sadness and maybe even anger.
During this phase, it’s important to help express and explain those feelings, but also for the child to establish and develop a good relationship with the caretaker(s). What was the focal point at home, needs to be replaced with a new warm friendly focal point at school. At home talk about the school, talk about the educator they spend most of the time with and talk about how they miss mommy and daddy when they’re away. Even when they are young, talking through things can be helpful.
3-5 Year Olds
At this stage, children are beyond separation anxiety but they crave familiarity and routine. They might have already experienced daycare or preschool and they carry their previous experience and memories with them. Some children will need to slowly adjust and grow used to this new environment full of new people and things to explore.
Children who are having more difficulty adjusting can find comfort in bringing an object that is familiar to them. This is the age when they consistently leave the house with a toy in hand, maybe their teddy bear, favorite book, or beloved truck. These objects create a link between home and school. That special toy is a reminder of their home and helps them feel relaxed, and as they eventually become more interested in the toys at the school and the new friends they are making, they will forget the toy and sooner or later stop bringing one to school every day.
Keys to a Successful Preschool Transition
No matter the circumstances, there are few things that you can do to help make any transition to a new daycare or childcare provider or a new school. The golden key is to be ready to exercise a lot of patience. It will sometimes feel impossible, sometimes feel like your child will never adjust, and there might be many difficult mornings. But know that your child is learning, growing, and this is a season in his life that will pass, but it takes time.
Next, encourage your child to make friends at school. Be thoughtful about engaging in conversation with other parents at pick-up and drop-off and if you’re able to, organize events to do together during the weekend. A friend at school helps brighten even the dreariest of days.
Lastly, talk about it. Communication is never under-valued. Talk about the highs and lows of each day. Talk about the teachers and call them by name. Talk about their classmates. Even if your child can’t talk yet, you are helping them learn how to express themselves and share their experiences.