In a few weeks, our kids are returning — or going for the first time — to school. If you have a preschooler, a lot of uncertainty might be running through your head at this time: will she like school? Will she make friends? Will she manage being left in school? Would she cry when you leave? (Also, would you be able to leave her side? But that calls for another article).
"For children, the main source of anxiety around entering preschool is that they have absolutely no idea what to expect," Katrina Green, a certified early childhood and early childhood special education teacher in Brooklyn, New York, told Parents.
Although children tend to cry and refuse to be left by their parents on their first foray into school — also known as separation anxiety — this reaction is quite common. Yes, look around — we bet your child isn't the only one crying. But, with preparation and some good practices from fellow moms, you'd possibly see less tearful goodbyes come school opening.
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1. Let your child go to trial classes first.
Mom Ave Cruz Perez from the Smart Parenting Village says they arranged for their son Prince Immanuel to attend trial classes so he can be familiar with the school environment before the start of the school year. There he met the teacher and got acquainted with the Montessori materials that are used in school.
2. Make your child part of the decision-making.
For mom Margarette Ong, including her almost-3-year-old Jeanne Charlize in the hunt for a preschool worked wonders. They allowed her to explore and asked for her feedback, too. Thus, after the first week of school, Margarette says she had no problem leaving her daughter with the teacher. "Ngayon sya pa mismo ang nagpapaalis sa akin at ayaw niya na pumapasok ako sa loob ng classroom para ihatid sya," she adds.
3. Say your goodbyes properly — with a promise to return.
If you've tried sneaking out, you probably know by now that this makes the crying episodes more intense. Leaving without telling your child is like breaking his trust. Say your goodbyes, tell him you'll be back at a particular time, and then go promptly and refuse the urge to linger.
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4. Give your child time to adjust.
It's heartbreaking to see our children cry and then have to leave them in the classroom, which is why it's understandable why some parents feel discouraged and decide to pull out their kids from school when this happens (and just "try again" next year). However, this is a bad idea. Says Green, "It denies the child an opportunity to learn how to work through negative feelings and sets a precedent of not having to face problems."
5. If necessary, have a comfort object at hand.
If your child still has not adjusted to school on his first few days, try offering a comfort object that will help him settle in in your absence. It could be a family photo, a small toy, or a sippy cup — small as they may be, they could provide real comfort and a sense of security to your child until he can adjust accordingly on his own.