Welcome to Kid Works 2018-19! Whether your child has been in child care from infancy or this is your first experience as a preschool parent, here are five tips for preschool parents to getting a positive start on the new school year.
1. Early bedtime! Children need at least 10 hours of sleep a night for healthy social, emotional, physical and mental development. A day at school for a child can be compared to a day at work for an adult. Children encounter many challenges throughout a school day that require great effort to manage and learn from. There is no substitute for a full night of sleep. (Hint: do not wait for your child to show signs of sleepiness before you put them to bed! Nightly routines and schedules work wonders.)
2. A well thought-out breakfast. Lately, teachers have been approached by children in class or outside after 11am during playtime saying, “I’m hungry”. When a child says this it does not always mean they are hungry. It could mean they are looking for comfort or stress relief if they are used to food serving that purpose. It could also indicate a need for a sensory experience. In instances where the child is indeed hungry, teachers have observed children ceasing to play, changes in attitude and a decreased ability to be resilient. This kind of hunger before noontime is usually due to a light breakfast and not eating the provided snack at school. Since you won’t know whether your child will choose to eat the snack at school, providing a protein-rich breakfast will get them through to 12pm.
For the “early birds” arriving at school before 8am, bringing breakfast from home to be eaten at school is of course better than no breakfast at all, but keep in mind that if your child is arriving early to eat breakfast, there are many things that will distract her from eating, such as friends to play with, friends to talk with, toys to play with, art materials to explore or music to dance to. There is no assurance your child will eat their to-go breakfast.
3. Have a saying-goodbye plan. Tell your child what is going to happen; that he is going to school where there are wonderful teachers who have planned some great things to do and where he will have friends to play with. Tell your child that you will say goodbye to each other at school and that you will come back for him. Decide your goodbye ritual ahead of time. This cannot be stressed enough. Tell your child what is going to happen so that your child has a general idea of what to expect. When he sees it unfold just the way you told him, he gains a sense of security. “This is what Mommy said was going to happen”. “Mommy did exactly what she said she would do. She said goodbye and walked away.” Trust builds, confidence grows!
Here is a sample parent talk. At home a dad/mom says to child, “Today is the day you get to go to preschool. I am so happy for you. I made sure I picked just the right school for you. When we get there, there will be teachers and other children to play with. There will be toys and snacks and stories. You will have your own cubby for your things. I will go into your classroom (or outdoors, wherever the students will be at that time) with you to say hello to your teachers and then I will give you a big hug and kiss and we’ll say goodbye to each other. You will stay at school and I will go to _____. When school is over I will come back for you and we’ll go home.” It’s short and clear.
4. Be confident! If you are nervous either on behalf of your child, or for your own individual reasons, keep it to yourself or share with another adult. (Teachers are always available for these talks. They know what you are going through and have encountered many parents in the same boat!) You must convey confidence and an upbeat attitude for your child to observe because children take their cues from parents. If they are nervous, they look to you for strength and a self-check. If they see Mom or Dad happy for them, confident and secure, they will feel much more comforted when processing their emotions.
5. Follow through. The first few days of preschool can be a honeymoon period. The novelty of school, new toys and activities, can distract a child from feeling her own feelings. After the newness of school wears off, there can be a period to intense emotional distress, as the permanency of school dawns on a young child’s life. If this happens to your child, first of all know that it is normal. It is a period of development that can be brief or last months, depending on the individual child and/or the way a parent navigates through this period. Keep communication open between yourself and the teachers, as well as between you and your child. Most importantly, stick to your saying-goodbye ritual. Lingering with the hope that your child’s emotions will settle down before you leave is not a good choice because your plan is to leave school and come back later, and your child knows that. Lingering creates doubt or confusion or a false hope that you will change your mind and stay!
It is hard and yes, emotional, to leave your child in a state of unhappiness. You are free to call at anytime to check in for a progress report. Oftentimes we’ll even text you a photo to give you peace of mind that your child is doing well!
Have confidence! Stick to your plan! You chose a great place for your child to be! She will regulate her feelings much faster if you hold to the routine you created together. Teachers have a full understanding of child development and are experienced practitioners of it. Please trust them. They are confident in what they do and look forward to helping your child find his inner confidence and joy to be at school.
It’s never too late to put these five tips to work. There are resources available to help with ideas if you’re stuck or stressed. The school staff is always happy to share ideas with you, as well as other parents at school who have found what works for them. Here’s to a great school year ahead, as we become a new caring community of parents, teachers and children!