Prepare your child for kindergarten by talking to them, but at the same time don’t make them anxious
I was recently approached by a young mother of a 2.5-year-old for something ‘important’. She looked flustered and anxious so after class, I sat her down, offered her a glass of water and asked her about the problem. Turns out her 2.5-year-old is ready for preschool and she was hyperventilating for her’s is an offspring of the clingy category. I was bombarded with questions like, ‘He has never been away from me even for a second, how will he settle down in school?’, ‘He even cries when I go to the washroom. How should I tell him I won’t be with him in school?’, ‘He is not even toilet trained. What if he does the big job in school?’, ‘He wakes up very late in the morning, how will he wake up for school?’
First I asked her to calm down and then shared with her what worked for me when I was in a similar situation a few years ago.
It’s normal to be anxious before a milestone event like preschool. This is an amazing step in a child’s life and all parents want to ensure a smooth transition for their child into this great phase.
As parents here are a few things you can do to make this transition easy and fun.
9 tips on how to prepare your child for preschool
Talk to your child about the change:
Talk to your child about school in an upbeat manner. Let them know what will happen in school and they will meet new people and make new friends. Also gently prepare them for the fact that they will have to be sans mommy or daddy. Although it is a good idea to talk about what to expect a few months in advance but don’t ‘over prepare’ your child for that may lead to anxiety in the child.
Fix sleep habits:
In case your child has been going to bed late and waking up late, now is the time to make amends. Most kids need a lot of sleep, a 2-3-year-old needs 11-14 hours of sleep. Preferably 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night and a 2-3 hour nap in the day. It takes a child about 2 months to adjust to a new routine and it is always a good idea to tuck them in early so they wake up happy and fresh the next morning. On school days, it’s always a good idea to wake them up early and give them enough time to prep for the day ahead. A groggy child always ends up cranky and irritable in school.
Have a consistent bedtime and waking up routine:
Consistency is very reassuring for a child. Children are beings of habit, they function very well when routines are well established. They also give them a sense of sequencing, time, discipline. Have a routine that first calms down the child and gently gets him in the mood to sleep. Try and stick to the routine and have a certain discipline around it.
Make time for Reading:
Make sure you integrate reading books into the bed routine. It is important to begin reading to your child in the early years to foster a love for books. Reading also enhances a child’s vocabulary and provides them with rich language needed for success and confidence in school. It’s always a wonderful idea to tuck your little one into bed with a book.
Reflection at bedtime:
It is very important to reflect on the day’s happenings with your child. This is best done in your alone time with the child. Talk about what went well and what could have been better. This could also include your own day’s happenings and not just the child’s. Once this routine is set you will realize your child actually looks forward to ‘catching up’ with you. In case you are facing a behavioral issue with your child, the reflection at bedtime regime can help tackle the issue to quite an extent. When children go to bed with thought it helps them register it much better.
Don’t worry about it. Schools are equipped to handle diaper disasters. Although it’s great if your baby is toilet trained, if not it’s absolutely okay.
Help your child become independent:
Start with daily chores like clearing the plate from the table, a tidy up routine after play, pull out books to read from the bookshelf etc. Also start with some activities like folding a handkerchief, stacking blocks, buttoning up a shirt, wearing socks, wearing shoes (use velcro shoes) etc. Also, introduce the child to eat on his own. Finger foods are a great way to encourage them to feed themselves. Initiate teaching them how to use a spoon or a fork to lift food from their plate.
If you have decided which school your baby will attend, plan a school fam-trip for your baby. Drive by the school and point out towards it with excitement. Talk about the structure in general and how there will be swings to play on and how there will be other children too, furniture in the classroom, toys, books, etc. If the school allows, take your child inside the school and let her sneak peek into ongoing classes, play on the swings and even meet her teacher to be. Most schools have a familiarization time at the beginning of the session.
Be prepared for tears:
Of course, there will be tears. Separation anxiety is absolutely normal for both parents and children. The initial few days may turn into teary goodbyes and a bit of a struggle but don’t worry, be patient and positive. Once your child settles down, goodbyes will be happy for sure.
The empty nest comes too soon, don’t worry and while away these precious moments. Breathe, relax and enjoy this fascinating new phase in your child’s life.