By Sinead Hamill
Whatever way you look at it, your child’s first day at preschool is going to be emotional. Whether there are whoops of joy at the prospect of finally having a few hours of ‘me time’ (yes, I’m referring to you, the parents!) or wails of dread as the time to say ‘goodbye’ looms ever closer, it is important to make your child’s first step into the academic world a positive experience.
Needless to say, the first person your child will look to for reassurance in this unfamiliar territory is you the parent, so it’s just as necessary to prepare yourself as it is your child, for this exciting new phase of their life.
Here are a few simple things you can do to help put everyone’s mind at ease:
Most preschools have an ‘Open Day’, giving children and parents the opportunity to visit their new school, familiarise themselves with the classroom environment and meet their new teacher. These days are very casual, with toys and fun activities laid out for the children. Whilst they are busy having fun and maybe even making a friend or two, you will have the chance to speak with their teacher and discuss any queries you have.
In the run up to the big day, chat often to your child about starting school. Talk about the new friends they will meet, the fun activities they will engage in and all of the exciting new things they will learn about. Remember to encourage your child to express their feelings on the matter and to ask you any questions they may have.
Encouraging your child to be independent with tasks such as toileting, dressing and tidying up their toys will not only build their self-confidence, it will also help prepare them for the independent behaviour encouraged in the classroom.
Please label all of your child’s belongings!. It can save needless tears and upset. Anything connected to home is very important in an unfamiliar setting.
The night before school starts get organised and make sure your child gets a good night sleep.
When the big day finally arrives, above all, stay calm. After a decent breakfast, you’re all set to go. Try not to arrive too early as waiting time is when nerves can creep in.
Greet the teacher in a friendly manner, reintroduce yourselves and follow her lead on helping your child to settle in.
Reassure your child that you will be back to collect them very soon and that you love them. If they are not crying, don’t hang around waiting for the floodgates to open. Trust that they’ll be fine. And so will you.
Hopefully after all of this, it will be smiles all around and looking forward to an exciting year ahead.