Nothing can be more heartbreaking than seeing your preschooler, already dressed up in her uniform, crying and begging you not to leave her at school. Try these tips when your preschooler is having a rough first week.
1. Understand that your child needs an adjustment period.
“In my experience, for a class of 10, mga three or four kids will have trouble with the first few days of school,” said Teacher Sophia Viola of Blended Learning Center. “But it’s normal. They cry because they are anxious from being separated from their parents, yaya or whoever is the primary caregiver. It’s the fear of the unknown -- they don’t know what’s going to happen to them and why they’re left alone.”
It’s important that you’ve prepped and oriented your child before the school day starts, added Teacher Sophia. Make it like a story. Tell her what in store for her at school for the day, the snacks you’ve packed for her, and how her teacher will be her friend. “Reassure her that everything’s going to be okay,” she said.
2. Avoid projecting your stress onto your child.
Mirroring your child’s anxieties about school will only make things worse and harder for your little learner. If you’re worried, your child will be worried, too. Be a role model, mom, and put on a brave face!
“Parents, relax, [because] the kids will feel and feed on your anxiety. If you did your research well, trust your school and your child,” said Anna Patricia “Teacher Pat” Rodriguez-Carranza, a teacher at Preschool Music Methods at the University of the Philippines College of Music.
“Especially on the first days, teachers expect the crying and tears. It's all part of growing up,” said Teacher Sophia. “Just be ready, be open, and be flexible as a parent to however your child behaves and whatever happens.”
3. Do a warm send-off, but don’t stay the whole day.
There are two mistakes parents often make. First, they try to sneak away from their crying child. Finding you’ve “disappeared” will only upset your child more. Second, they make a big deal about goodbyes or even worse, stay for the whole school day! Again, grand goodbyes or not leaving at all only sends the message to your child that there’s something to worry about or that you don’t trust the school to take care of her.
“Assure her that everything's going to be okay, hug her real tight and say ‘You're going to be okay. Listen to your teacher, okay?’ And then, let go. If you cuddle your kids for a long time, especially on the first days, they won't let go anymore. You have to learn to let go, and let the teacher handle your child,” said Teacher Sophia.
It's important you keep your farewell consistent as well. Do the same short and sweet goodbye ritual every day and soon your child will feel more comfortable with you leaving. “Kids 'thrive' on routine. They're more confident when they know what's next,” said Teacher Pat.
Try not to come back in the middle of the day to check up on your child, too. It would break the consistency of the routine, and it would mean you’d have to go through the whole farewell process again.
4. Talk to the teacher.
Teachers are familiar with children who have a rough first few days. “You’ll see they won’t talk or play with their classmates, or make eye contact even after the day is over. They also cry and refuse to eat. Sometimes they also have tummy aches that are brought about by their stress,” said Teacher Pat.
If this is your child, don’t hesitate to talk to the preschool teacher in charge. It's her job to attend not just to your child’s early education but her emotional and physical needs as well. But you need to help her with the tools she needs to accomplish her job well.
“I would like to know about the child’s home life. It eases the transition into preschool,” said Teacher Sophia. “What’s her behavior like at home? What techniques do you use to calm her down? It would also be helpful to know about the family dynamics at home especially sensitive ones that could be affecting your child.”
Think of the preschool teacher as a partner! She’s there to help your child grow, learn and have fun in school.
If your child doesn’t start school yet for a few weeks, here are a few preparation tips to help lessen worries and anxieties, and help ensure she’s excited for her first day.
1. Take your child along when you shop for her school supplies.
“Involve your child in the process -- everything from selecting the school supplies and fitting the uniforms,” said Teacher Pat.
“And while you're buying, describe how she’s going to use it in school or what they’re for,” said Teacher Sophia. “Best if you can bring her to the school before school starts too to meet the teachers, visit her soon-to-be classroom and check out the playground.”
2. Make sure your child’s medical records are up to date.
“It helps when your child is healthy and has a record of it,” said Teacher Pat. “Giving the school a record of vaccines, allergies or other diagnosed conditions (learning disabilities included) will help facilitate medical treatment and class activity inclusion. For example, may asthma pala tapos the school didn't know, or may cooking activity tapos may nut allergy pala.”
3. Attend the parent’s orientation.
So you know what to expect, and you can tell your child’s teacher your concerns before school starts. “It's a must to attend,” said Teacher Sophia.