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How to have a tear free first day of preschool

Written By | Aug 19, 2013

SILVER SPRING, Md, August 19, 2013 — The end of summer means back to school for millions of families across the country. While children either dread or approach this annual rite with excitement, for children who are going to school for the first time, leaving the safe enclave of home and parent, this first day can be filled with tears.

Following are some tips that will have the only tears you need to worry about being your own.

Stick to your morning routine

Since going to school is a big change, try to change as little as possible everywhere else in his life. That means get up and eat the same breakfast, get dressed, and allow a little play time or a favorite television show if time allows.

After he has gone through his normal routine and sees that some things do stay the same he will feel a little more comfortable about heading off for a new adventure. Sticking to the same routine could be a problem if your child’s day normally includes sleeping until 9am and staying in his pajamas until after his noontime nap.

If you have a schedule established that is not compatible with getting out the door on time for school, try to introduce the new morning pattern before school begins.  The more time you have to establish the new pattern the better, but try for at least a week in advance of that first day to give your little one time to adjust

Arrive early

Since the first day of school is so intimidating for many kids, imagine how they will feel if they arrive late and have to walk into the classroom with all eyes on them.

It is much easier to get your child comfortable with the idea of leaving what she knows for the unknown if you arrive early. Since the first day jitters are so common, many preschools allow children to come into the classroom early so that the child can check out his surroundings before the day begins and before mom or dad has to leave.

The separation will be easier for you, the teacher and the child, if your little one is already comfortable enough, or immersed in meeting new and old friends, to forget you were there in the first place.

Get to school early so your child can become familiar with his surroundings before you have to leave. Photo by Micah Sittig.

Be positive

If you are nervous about letting your new student out of your sight, keep those feelings to yourself. Your apprehension can rub off and feed into fears that your child may have or give rise for ones he did not have before he saw your reaction.

Find ways to make the first day of school a good experience: take him shopping for his backpack ahead of time to build excitement; tell him he has a special outfit for the first day of school and lay it out the night before; or tell him there is a special surprise in his lunchbox that he can only have when it is time to eat at school, just make sure you include a treat when you are packing that meal.

Then, on the first day of school, start the day out upbeat and with a smile, reminding him of how much fun he is going to have.

Make a quick exit

Once you have taken your child inside and seen that he has gotten settled, make your exit. Do not just simply slip out of the room, but do not make it a teary, sob-filled goodbye. Prolonged goodbyes can make a child’s apprehension resurface after he has started to become comfortable.

Make it quick. Tell him that mommies and daddies are not allow to stay and play at preschool, but you will be back to pick him up and want to hear all about his day. Steal a quick hug and kiss, and slip out the door.

Of course, you know your child better than anyone, so if slipping out without him realizing it is the trick to avoiding a meltdown, make sure you let the teacher know you are leaving without saying goodbye for that reason. That way if your child goes looking for you after you are gone the teacher will know what to expect.

Make sure you are on time to pickup your child on his first day of school. Photo by popofactticus via Flickr.

Be on time to pick him up

While some parents may not think about the repercussions of being a couple of minutes late, you should. If you are not there waiting to pick him up as soon as the classroom doors open, you can introduce worry to your child that you are not coming back for him like you said you wold.

The longer he has to wait to see you, the more negative an association he might develop with school, which could lead to tears on day two, and day three and so on.

While every child is different, and every child’s experience with school is different, you are an important part of making school a positive experience from the start.  If you follow these tips, the only tears you might have to worry about are your own.

Brighid Moret also writes children’s picture book reviews at Big Reads For Little Hands. Read more about parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.


Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer, mother and reader. She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Find her on Twitter @BrighidMoret, or follow @BigReadsLittleH for the latest children's book reviews.