The first words, first steps, first days of school -- anytime your child starts or learns something new is a nervous and exciting time for everyone. A child that is just beginning preschool for the first time faces many emotions and worries. As a parent, you can help to ease the fears and worries that often arise with the prospect of being in an unfamiliar place without mom or dad. Use the following tips to make the transition easier on the whole family and also make your child's first year of school a memorable one.
- Teach the fundamentals. During the time that your child has either been at home with your or at daycare, she has probably learned some of the basics of kindness and etiquette. That doesn't mean that there isn't more to learn or that even a refresher course isn't necessary. Take the time to teach or reiterate how to take turns, listen and have patience when waiting for the teacher. By the time a child is at preschool age (usually between the ages of three and five), she has already learned most of these skills but it doesn't hurt to practice them whenever the opportunity arises.
- Visit your local library. The library can be an important tool in readying your child for preschool in a couple of ways. First of all, there are numerous books that can help prepare children for the beginning of preschool. By asking your librarian for stories on going to school for the first time, you can check out different books that will help your child to know that he or she is not alone in some of the fears of going to school. Most of the stories you will find will be fiction and written from the child's point of view. This helps children to identify with the characters in the story and what they did or experienced during the school day. Also, many libraries have story times in which parents and children come to enjoy a story or activity with a group of children close to their age. By taking advantage of this time, your child will receive interaction with other children, enjoy a story read by the parent volunteer or child librarian, and be able to practice many of the skills you have already been working on, like taking turns and using good listening skills.
- Let's pretend. It is true that pretending is a child's way of learning more about the world around him and how to interact in it. Children act out scenarios and scenes that they might encounter in real life. Take the time to set up a "pretend school" with your child. You can use a small table and chairs, invite "friends" (like teddies and dolls) and you can be the teacher. Make up a snack time, story time and different activities (like art) that your child might have in preschool. Ask your child what he would like to learn in pretend school. Make it silly and use this time to talk about the different things that can happen at school. If you've made a trip to the library and found a favorite story about beginning preschool, your child may benefit from acting the part of the main character and make up your own adventure from the book.
- Take a practice run. If you already know what school your child will be attending, this is a good opportunity to pay a visit a week or two before your child starts. Let her meet the teacher and observe what a day at school will be like. If possible, make a couple of trips to let your child familiarize herself with the surroundings before school actually begins. Some schools will allow you and your child to do this prior to beginning preschool. Some schools even have a special afternoon or night where everyone comes to meet one another and get acquainted. When you do have a practice run of school, be sure to include any ready-for-school routines you will have at home, so that your child also becomes familiar with what she will need to do at home to get ready for preschool.
These are just a few of the many ways to help your child prepare for preschool. No matter how you choose to help your child, remember to take your time, be patient with him and listen to all his fears and thoughts. This is an exciting and scary time for both parent and child. Just taking the time to be there for your child can help to ease her worries greatly and give her a sense of comfort when the big day comes.