Starting preschool or daycare (if you are in Sweden it’s förskola) is a big leap for both you and your child. It will come with big emotions for both of you, but helping them to prepare for the transition with ease the changes ahead. It’s never too early to help your child make an adjustment! Providing them with an easier transition helps strengthen the bond and trust between you both.
When working with clients I will often relate starting preschool with making changes with sleep because the concept is the same – make changes according to your child by giving them guidance and support through the difficult period. Change can be hard no matter what age and giving guidance and support helps build trust and reduce their stress. But keep in mind that even when making changes built around trust and guidance there will still be an adaption period that may come out as crankiness, sleeping worse, or sadness. Change can be challenging, but we never want it to be overwhelming for a child. Using the following tips and help ease the transition of starting preschool.
Make the transition easier
Three to four weeks before:
1) Talk, talk, talk to you child about the change coming up and what they will be doing at pre-school. Make it exciting and fun to hear about!
2) Visit the location. I would suggest walking by several times and talking to your child about them going there soon. Try and visit while the kids are outside playing to get them used to what they will do there. If you feel comfortable, stop in and say hi or ask if you can stop by with your child to say hi for a few minutes.
3) Visit other play places to get your child to being around other children. If possible, let your child explore on their own while you are sitting a little further away and encourage them to explore. This is also great to start at home as well as this builds their skill in a comfortable environment.
4) Choose a comfort item (blanket or stuffed animal) for them to have with them at preschool and keep at preschool.
5) Be confident, happy, and excited when talking about preschool. Your child will mirror your emotions about the changes.
One to two weeks before:
1) Begin on the same schedule as your child will have at preschool in regards to eating and sleeping times.
2) Develop a goodbye routine. Wave from the same location to give them consistency. Provide your child with ideas on what they can do if they are sad when you are leaving. For example, let them know they can ask for a hug from a teacher or have a comfort item with them to hold on to.
3) Continue talking, making a stop or two by the preschool, continue giving your child space to play either on their own or with other children, and continue talking about pre-school in a positive way, even if you are feeling unsure or nervous yourself!
Our preschool sent a photo of the class and welcomed Taylor with a note. We put the picture up on our fridge and started talking about going to preschool often. It really helped the transition for her to begin on the first day.
Starting daycare is a gradual process and I often explain to parents that it’s similar to sleep changes using a Happy Sleep Plan or sleep support. Both are parent assisted processes that allow your child to adapt to the changes. You can’t make the change for them but you are there to help when needed, give guidance, and offer support.
To continuing helping your child adapt and develop a positive attitude after they have begun preschool, ask them about their favorite part of their day when you pick them up.
Click to read Part 2, where I’ll talk more about what to expect as your child adapts.
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