Waving goodbye to your child on the first day of preschool can be a bit nerve-wracking, albeit a moment that requires all the tissues. But there are a few steps you can take in order to ease the worry attached to the transition — for you and for them. Between finding the school that works best for you and practicing your goodbyes, knowing what your child’s preschool teacher wants you to know about that inevitable first day and beyond can be incredibly helpful.
First and foremost, Julie Kandall, the educational director at NYC-based Columbus Pre-School, says it’s important to have faith and trust in the teachers. “They are seasoned in this process, having helped dozens, if not hundreds of children transition to school,” Kandall tells Romper in an email interview. “They are good at understanding children’s needs and sensitivities during this time. Showing your child that you trust their teachers will help your child feel comfortable and safe, and will help ease the separation.”
Maureen Lake, a mother of three with an MA in early childhood development, says visiting the school ahead of time will help to establish trust with teachers. “Even if you can’t get into the building yet, maybe it’s possible to play outside on the playground,” Lake tells Romper. "Practice saying goodbye and hello, and make it fun and positive before school even begins.”
Lake adds that once your child has the basic idea of what preschool will entail, you can also start incorporating it into their at-home play. “Act out different situations, like saying goodbye, singing songs, sitting in a circle, and even taking a pretend nap together. This will help with some of the unknown stress and anxiety they may feel,” she says.
Once school starts, Kandall says it is crucial to be consistent. When possible, she recommends having the same person do drop-off and pickup at school so your child gets into a routine. “We also often recommend parents make a calendar showing home days and school days so your child knows what to expect and when to expect it,” she says.
As for the tearful goodbyes, Lake says it’s not uncommon and, in fact, normal. Phew.
“Your child starting school will bring up a lot of emotions, some that you may not even understand at the time,” she says. “It’s often harder for the mom than it is for the child, especially when it’s your first child — this is a major milestone for both of you. It’s difficult, but necessary to realize that you both will be scared, you will both miss each other, you both may not eat, and making friends may take some time.”
Most of all, Lake says, “It’s OK to be sad.” She recommends you find some solace in your other mom friends who are working through similar feelings. “You are not alone at all,” she says.
At least you’ll have someone to share tissues with, right?