The alarm is going off and already you are dreading the struggle of getting your child ready for school before you head to work. We have all been there as parents. We second guess whether or not our child is ready for school or we feel guilty that we need to send them to pre-school at such a young age.
It’s completely normal for a child to resist when adjusting to a new program and routine. Children are just learning how to feel safe so anything new is hard to do and they need reassurance that mom and dad will be back at the end of the day. Your child’s teacher knows and understands that you don’t want your child to be sad or experience pain. They also know that going though struggles and challenges gives us grit, an important part of your child’s development.
Here are how some parents have been able to make this transition to a new routine easier for their child, and themselves.
- Watch your own emotional state. It’s ok to cry, just wait until you have left the building or parking lot. Young children have an incredible ability to pick up on parental anxieties and worry. It’s as if they truly have a sixth sense. Their approach to starting something new will directly reflect your own. If you are tense and nervous, they will be too. If you are positive and very matter of fact, without showing any stress, your child will be much more likely to go along with the plan.
- Establish a routine and stick to it. Consistency is key. From the steps you take to get ready in the morning, to the way you say goodbye, you must be consistent. Deviation from the ordinary, even in a minor way, is a huge deal for young children and can cause them to doubt their expectations. Very little things in your child’s life can cause big reactions. If your child does not attend preschool every day, keep the days the same and close to each other. Every day attendance is ideal, however, as that consistency allows him to become familiar and comfortable with the routine.
- Don’t resort to bribes. Whatever you do, do not promise you will bring your child a special treat (whether it be a snack or new toy, etc.) when you pick him up if he agrees to go inside. This is a dangerous slippery slope that will have your child heading to school for all the wrong reasons. Give him the time he needs to develop an appreciation of all the opportunities available inside. In addition, this is an expectation that is hard to break at a young age, only causing further issues down the line.
- Be confident in your choice. Talk positively with your child as the new transition and routine approach. Let your child know all the great reasons you chose this place for him. Let him know you will be back to pick him up in a few hours or at the end of the day. Keep your drop off short and sweet – a quick hug and then out the door. Ask him to remember two things he does during the day so he has something to look forward to telling you at pickup.
If you are having difficulty dropping your child off in the morning, take a moment to contemplate these suggestions. Can you implement them into your routine? If you stick with it, you will see results. Your child will be rushing you out the door in the morning and might even want to stay longer or come more often. If you continue having a hard time letting go yourself, find another parent at the school who can be a support. Remember, they have all been in your shoes before. The first time sending a child off to school, whether it’s preschool or college, is a very emotional milestone for parents, but you have a community of others who are here to support you.
Carol Martorano, M.Ed., has been working in Montessori for 20 years as both a teacher and administrator. She is the parent of two teenagers who attended Montessori through the elementary years and is currently the Head of School at the Montessori School of Long Grove, in northwest suburban Chicago. She has her Montessori credentials in Elementary I and II, as well as administration. She earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and sits on the board of the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools.