Last Tuesday we began a new journey of life with our two and half-year old toddler joining preschool. It was the day of induction where the parents and the children were briefed about the set expectations from the Montessori method of teaching at the preschool. It was heartwarming to see the compassion with which the teachers and the principal dealt with the toddlers. The youngest in the class was a cute 1.9 yrs old girl and the eldest a 3 yrs old boy. The interaction was made interesting with a lot of games and some chocolates. We went back satisfied with the assurance we felt while talking to the teachers. Little did we know that this was the beginning of a roller-coaster ride on emotions.
Day 1 – There was no difficulty in getting him to school. There it began with one kid crying when everyone decided to follow suit. For my son, this was the first time that he was staying in an environment without a single family member. While he went inside without much fuss, I came to know later that he had not left his class teacher alone even for a second. After the stipulated forty minutes, he came out crying.
Day 2 – It was a bit of struggle to get him ready for school. He kept refusing to dress up. Nevertheless we kept trying to get him excited about the games that he would get to play with his friends in school. There were numerous moments of meltdown. The preschool has a fantastic approach of taking the students inside the premises. They hardly allow any time for goodbyes. Yet again he came out crying after the stipulated duration. We were told that he had played a little with the ball but mostly had been clinging onto his class teacher.
Day 3 – This was the day of massive struggle – I was almost tempted to give in and let him skip school since he simply refused to co-operate. Took a lot of effort in coaxing and convincing him to finally make the trip. But the moment he reached the preschool gate, he started shedding copious amount of tears. And suddenly every kid waiting for their turn to get in started howling. It was heartbreaking to see so many tiny tots in tears. He was the first one to come out after classes and I was told about him crying for most of the duration that day.
The last two days being weekend, he had a break and we took him to parks and play zones to let him relax. As we gear up for another probably a little difficult day at school tomorrow, here are few tips to help cope up with a bumpy first week at preschool.
1. Talk to the toddler about school – It is essential to prepare him for this journey. While he might not be able to understand all of it, he might actually start looking forward to something new.
2. Walk him down to the gate instead of carrying him – The most difficult part of the school is the separation at the gate. It gets tougher when the child is being carried as it is a natural tendency to cling on to the parent.So let him take those stairs or last few steps before he reaches the gate.
3. Light Breakfast – It is better to offer the kid items that he loves eating and always in moderation.Because of incessant crying, there might be a tendency to throw up. Also please don’t force feed. We have been on an egg and sweets breakfast for few days now.
4. Do not give in to the temptation of letting him skip school out of guilt – children will take a while to settle down and cope up with the separation anxiety. Quite a lot of times their pain makes us give in to their wishes. It is important to let them fall into the routine for faster adjustment to the new environment. Having said that, please do not send them to school if they are unwell.
5. List of items to be sent along – While different preschools have a different list of items to be packed in the school bag, it is advisable to ensure that a set of clothes, a diaper and wiping towel are kept in the bag along with water bottle. We had the advantage of food being served in the preschool – biscuits for the first few days. But if the school doesn’t provide food, please pack few dry items in the tiffin box. Keeping the bag packed the previous night helps avoiding the unnecessary rush in the morning.
6. Comfort and cuddle your child a little more – It is important that as adults we understand that the child is undergoing a lot of changes and insecurities. There’s no point in pushing him to fit in until he’s prepared. It is essential that he enjoys the process and doesn’t get scared of it. So please give him time to cope up, talk to him regularly to make him understand that this part of the growing up process and hug & make him feel loved a little more.
7. Talk to the teachers/mentor/ Principal – It is essential to know what the child does in school so that the parent can help the child overcome his insecurities or fears. It might be the usual crying and clinging on routine in the first week but staying informed is advisable.
8. Do not force him to make friends – Most of the children are observant by nature. While it is nice to have them introduced to each other, the tendency to force them to develop a friendship might actually backfire. So get them familiar with each other but wait for them to decide whether they like each other immediately or in due course of time.
9. Do not compare your child to anyone else – Statements like “X doesn’t cry to school or X already has so many friends or X is such a good boy” is definitely not going to help. Every child has a different coping mechanism and pushing him to be someone else can only adversely affect his understanding of the situation.
I am sure that with a lot of patience, love and understanding, as parents we have the ability to make this an enjoyable and seamless transition for our kids.