5 tips to help preschool parents tackle the first day of school

15990510070_1b78e82432_zAs a final push to support centers in the busy Back to School season, the KinderCare Communications team sent out a press release to focus national attention on how parents can reduce stress for both themselves and their children as their littlest learners head to school.

Parents of preschoolers, toddlers and even infants face a unique set of challenges when their littlest learners transition to a school environment for the first time or head back to school after a big break.

Linda Hassan-Anderson, vice president of Education at KinderCare Learning Centers, understands that new surroundings and routines create excitement and anxiety for the whole family. To help parents navigate this transition, she’s shared her list of the top top tips for helping families transition into school and create happier goodbyes:

  1. Try a practice day. Ease parent/child nervousness by scheduling a drop-in or partial day at your child’s center on a day off, or shortly before returning to work. This also allows you to focus on your child’s needs (and your own feelings) without the added pressure of having to get to the office.
  2. Discover the classroom together. Your curiosity, positivity and excitement about the new classroom encourages those same behaviors in your child. Help them feel more familiar with their new surroundings by exploring the different parts of the room and identifying where things belong.
  3. Name the feelings. Children show emotion through crying, which is normal and healthy. Acknowledge their emotions; it’s an important part of helping them cope with transitions. You might say: I see that you’re sad that I’m leaving. I will miss you too. I’ll be back after you have recess this afternoon to pick you up.”
  4. Map the Nap. Mapping out sleep patterns will be incredibly helpful in this new transition. During those early weeks at a new school, it’s especially important to watch for your child’s individual indications of tiredness, rather than relying solely on the clock. They may be tired earlier (or later) than their usual bedtime. Your child’s nap schedule is also going to evolve and change as they adjust to a classroom environment, so talk to teachers about how you can support your child’s sleep at school. This could include bringing in familiar comfort objects like a “lovey” or a favorite stuffed animal.
  5. Get excited about lunchtime. Explain the new lunch routine to your child. Get them excited about eating new foods with their new friends. Let your child know it’s ok and that lunches and snacks will be extra yummy. Look for a school that works with registered dietitians to create a healthy, balanced menu that offers “family-style dining” where kids eat together. Children are especially open to learning from their peers, so seeing another child try a new food can inspire some culinary adventure.

As with all babies and small children, establishing consistent and positive routines helps them feel safe and secure. For more tips on transitioning to school for the first time and great ideas on fun learning-through-play activities, visit the KinderCare blog.

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