The big day is finally here!

Allow Plenty of Time to Get to School

On this day, especially, it’s important to allow plenty of time to get ready and get to school. If you’ve prepared everything the day before, then the morning won’t be a mad dash to get out the door. The calmer things are at home, the easier the separation will be when you get to school.

Even if you are running a little late, make sure your child has a good breakfast so he’s not hungry and cranky at drop-off. It doesn’t have to be a big production. Yogurt, a bran muffin, cereal and milk, or toast with peanut butter plus a piece of fruit and glass of milk are fine.

Go over the day’s routine with your child again in the morning and again on the way to school. This will help curb any separation anxiety before it even starts. Resist the urge to bring your camera or camcorder, and focus on easing your child into the preschool classroom. (If you must have a first-day-of-school photo, try to take it at home or outside the classroom.)

Be Positive and Confident

Much of a child’s separation anxiety goes back to how his parents are feeling. Show your preschooler you are confident that you’re leaving him in a safe place and that you’re sure nursery school is going to be great. Let him walk into the classroom on his own – avoid carrying him. Greet the teacher with a smile and in a friendly manner to show that you like and trust her. Even if you’re nervous or sad about leaving your child, put on a happy face and pretend you think it’s terrific. If your child senses that you’re anxious or nervous, he’ll be even more scared and clingy.

If parents aren’t allowed to stay after class begins, help your child get settled in, put his things away, connect with the teacher, and do your new good-bye ritual before you go. Remember, some tears are to be expected in the beginning, but here are some suggestions for getting through those first few mornings:

  • Point out fun activities or other children in the classroom he may remember. Say, “Look at the trains you played with the last time we were here. Remember the track you made? Maybe you can try building another one.”
  • Don’t ask your child for permission to leave – you’ll never get it (and it’s not his call, anyway).
  • Don’t sneak away when your child isn’t looking. This is very distressing for a child. Let him know you’re leaving, and leave.
  • Let the teacher get your child’s attention and distract him with an activity after you’ve said good-bye and are ready to go.
  • If your child is clinging to you, don’t make the teacher have to pull him off your body. That will just make him think teachers are mean and untrustworthy.
  • If your child cries, be firm but positive. You could say, “It’s time for me to go. I know it’s hard, but you’ll be OK. Miss Diane will take care of you at school, and I’ll be back this afternoon to pick you up.”
  • Don’t drag it out by lingering if your child is crying. Remember, some might take a few minutes longer than others, but all kids stop crying soon after you leave. The longer you stay, the worse it will be.
  • If you feel like crying on the first day, save it until you’re out the door. Your child could interpret it as, “Mommy doesn’t think this preschool is a good place, but she’s leaving me here anyway.”

Yes, it’s tough to leave your little one at preschool for the first time, especially if he’s having a hard time separating. Remind yourself that your child is in a good place – a place you chose especially for him. It’s all right to call the school later on just to see how things are going on the first day.

Guess what? Some kids don’t seem to have any separation anxiety. They walk in on the first day like they own the place, head straight for the toys, and barely manage to acknowledge your kiss good-bye. Yes, it’s a little heartbreaking, but consider it a blessing!

Be On-Time for Pickup

On the first day (and every day), don’t be late to pick up your child from school. Let him feel confident that you will always come back when you said you would, and don’t make him wonder (even for a moment) whether you’re coming.

You may be surprised at how your child greets you at pickup – or doesn’t greet you. Just as drop-off is a transition time of day, pickup is a transition, too. Some kids will start crying again when they see you come in the door, so it looks like they’ve been crying all day. Just ask the teacher. Chances are they’ve really had a great time. Others run to their parents’ arms, full of stories about all the fun things they did at school. Some refuse to leave, insisting that they aren’t done playing. (If that happens, be respectful of the teachers’ time and calmly but firmly remove your child.)

Give Your Child Some Time at Home to Relax and Decompress.

He may want some extra individual attention from you, or he may just want to be left alone for a bit. Before going home, however, you might want to celebrate completing the first day of school with a little treat – your child deserves an ice-cream cone, and so do you!

Your child isn’t a baby anymore – now he’s a preschooler! Preschool may start off smoothly; it may be a little rocky. But in a few weeks, that classroom will be full of kids who are having a great time, and your child will be one of them! In the next chapter, you’ll learn some tips for helping your child have a great experience in school all year long.

Excerpted from How to Choose the Best Preschool For Your Child.

Used by permission.

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