Even though it's July and we're enjoying our warm weather and Summer vacations, "Back To School" season will be here before you know it. As a parent, dropping off your child for the first day of school can easily turn from excitement to tears without even knowing where it came from! "It's the first day of school - my child is crying - everyone's staring - I might start crying - I'm now late for work - what do I do?"
We see it all of the time and it's perfectly normal! As educators, we know how to handle separation anxiety but there are always things parents can do to help the situation. Children are supposed to be attached to their parents and scared of the unknown. This is why we've come up with some great tips to help if you ever find yourself in this situation.
Prepare in Advance
Before the first day of school, spend time talking about preschool and all of the fun children and toys they have there. If you can, take multiple visits to the school with your child and show them around, meet teachers, etc. This will comfort your child because they will know what to expect on their first day. You can also read them books about going to school. Some great examples are Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins or Bye-Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick.
On the Big Day
When the moment finally comes and you have to leave, remember these important tips to help calm your child down:
- Comfort your child and show that you understand how they feel. You can also give them something to look forward to at the end of the day. Example:"“I know you feel sad when Mommy leaves. But we can go get ice cream after school!"
- Another great idea: "Before school, have your toddler pick out a box of popsicles in primary colors, making this his special treat after school. At drop-off, ask him what color he would like to have after school. Not only does this teach him colors, it gives him something special to look forward to."
- Don't take too long to say goodbye, it will only feel worse if it's drawn out. You should be able to say goodbye in less than 10 minutes. If you linger because of the crying, you can guarantee they will cry louder and longer the next day.
- Try to have a positive attitude because this will reflect in your child's behavior. If you look sad or worried, your child will see that as he should be worried too.
- Attempt to distract your child with one of the activities or toys in the classroom. Once they show interest, kiss them goodbye and head out the door.
- Don't sneak out. This can hinder your child's trust in you and make him feel abandoned.
- Don't come back for a peak in the window. Your child may have stopped crying but if they see you again, it will most likely start all over.
- Remember, you can always call the school director throughout the day to check up on your child.
When you arrive to pick up your child, be sure to tell them how great they are and how proud you are of them - Positive reinforcement is always key to success! And be sure to hold true on your promise of ice cream!