Transitioning from home to preschool

AS WE continue to examine educational transitions and the implications, we will take a closer look at what parents can do to support their young children as they prepare to make the transition from home to preschool. This is an important consideration, especially after emerging from the restraints imposed by the pandemic. For while there continues to be rollbacks on these restraints, children and families have already felt the impact they have caused.

The early childhood period is one that is characterised by rapid growth and development. Children meet and surpass a number of milestones while they explore and learn more about the world around them. One of the major milestones they will encounter during this period is the transition from home to preschool.

Both parents and children will approach this time with a lot of mixed emotions. For parents, there may be feelings of excitement and apprehension. Excitement at the thought of their child being at an age where they are capable of being independent, meeting new friends, and learning new things. Apprehensive at the thought of not being present to respond to their needs after being there for them for the past three years.

For children there is excitement at the thought that they are now “big children” starting school. But there is also separation anxiety since this will be the longest period of time they will spend away from their parents on a daily basis. It is important to note, however, that these feelings are all par for the course; it is perfectly natural for both parents and children to have these experiences. Nonetheless, it is also important to recognise that there are actions that parents/caregivers can take to prepare their young ones for this major milestone.

Here are some tips to help.

Have fun with preschool prep

* Take your child on drive-bys to the preschool so they can become familiar with the route and the building. Talk to them about some of the activities they will do there, the new people they will meet and the fun they will have.

* Use pretend play to explore the idea of preschool. Role-play saying goodbye so they become accustomed to the idea. Find out from the school what are some of the daily routines your child will experience and do some of these at home with him/her.

* Read books about preschool. Visit your local library and enquire of the librarian about books that address preschool topics. Make it a routine to read with you child on these issues.

* Make a game out of practising self-help skills. This is an area that children will have to master in this transition – dressing themselves, putting on their shoes, etc. Make these fun experiences for them.

Worries and watching

* Listen to your child’s worries. Do not think to yourself that he/she is only a pre-schooler and therefore what worries can he/he have. Listen to what they have to say and reassure them that all will be well, that they will be safe, have fun and learn new things. Share with him/her a time when you were worried and what you did. Children are often a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for.

* Notice non-verbal cues. As the time nears, you may notice changes in behaviour; pay attention to these since they provide clues on how your child is feeling. Among these could be a return to bed-wetting, even if potty-trained; aggressive behaviours or even withdrawal, to name a few. Don’t get frustrated. It is natural for them to feel uncertain about the change they are about to experience. You need to be reassuring and comforting to help ease them through the transition.

The preschool countdown – what to do and when

* Two weeks before the start: Take your child shopping and let him/her help with selecting the backpack. This helps with giving them a sense of control. Label all of the school items with his name in a permanent marker. Start using a school bedtime routine and stick to it.

* The night before preschool: Answer any last-minute questions your child may have. Make sure your child goes to bed on time. Keep the bedtime routine soothing and relaxing. Avoid any first-day questions unless she insists.

* The first day: Wake up early enough so you don’t feel rushed. Sit with your child and have a good breakfast. Review the day’s routine indicating when you will return to pick up.

Say a good goodbye

* Plan to stay a little while.

* Keep your tone positive and upbeat

* Think about creating a special goodbye routine

* Resist the rescue.

Do what you must to ensure that your child is off to a good start with school.

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