The first time dropping off your child at school can be an emotional challenge. Both children and parents can experience anxiety at this time. It's completely normal! Know that it gets easier with time and practice. Here are some tips to prepare your child (and yourself!) for this transition:
Plan your drop-off routine in advance. Routines are comforting to children because they make life predictable. When things go the way your child expects them to at drop-off time, it helps give them confidence that other things will go as expected as well - such as you coming to pick them up at the end of the day. Agree on what you will do when it is time to leave - one big hug, one big kiss, one high five, and then mom or dad is out the door, for example. And stick to it! Walk calmly down the hall and out the door, trusting your child’s teachers to comfort your child if they cry.
Read “I Go to Preschool.” Stop by the office if your child is struggling with separation anxiety at preschool and you do not yet have a copy of “I Go to Preschool,” our customized scripted story for social situations. From Vanderbilt University’s Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning:
Scripted Stories for Social Situations help children understand social interactions, situations, expectations, social cues, the script of unfamiliar activities, and/or social rules. As the title implies, they are brief descriptive stories that provide information regarding a social situation. When children are given information that helps them understand the expectations of a situation, their problem behavior within that situation is reduced or minimized.
Read other books about school. Check out The Kissing Hand, The Kiss Box, Llama Llama Misses Mama, Daniel Goes to School, Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, Wemberly Worried, and Sam’s First Day. You can also check out Season 1, Episode 2 of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, “Daniel Visits School,” to help your child learn strategies for dealing with anxiety about new things.
Choose a comfort item. Some children who are struggling a lot with the transition into class benefit from bringing a comfort item, such as a special stuffed animal, with them into the classroom. Speak with your teacher about bringing in a comfort item.
Maintain a positive, relaxed attitude about preschool. Children will pick up on your emotional cues. Take a deep breath and work to calm your own stress and anxiety before discussing the topic. Smile and talk about the fun things they will get to experience.
Reach out to others. Remember, you are not alone here! Other class parents will be happy to talk with you about their own experiences. Try to reach out and start building a support network. Arrange a playdate with another family so that your child can identify a friendly face in class.
Remind your child that you always come back. Repeat it like a mantra: “Mommy/Daddy always comes back.”
We know the preschool transition can be difficult. Know that we will be working hard here to make your child comfortable and happy while they are here. The day will come when your child will enter the classroom with a smile on their face!