Starting Preschool: What To Expect

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Zoe Campos

Thanks for assuring me that it is perfectly normal for my toddler to feel sad or confused especially if it…

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You know the old dilemma about whether it is safer to drive or fly?

The logical answer depends on statistics and facts. As a driver, you don’t have a radar system, ground control, or a co-pilot. Maybe a GPS and a backseat-driver who “just tries to help.”

The emotional answer, however, has a lot to do with control. Everyone thinks: “OK, if I’m driving, I have at least a fighting chance to steer away from danger.” As a flight passenger, it basically boils down to your having a little faith!

Starting preschool (from a parent’s perspective, of course) it is a lot like strapping in for a flight. You are not going to be the pilot of this aircraft. You are going to have to trust your child care provider. Your job is get this crew child prepared for departure! So if you’re starting daycare or preschool, here are a few things to expect, from everyone involved:

What to expect from yourself

  • To be stressed a little (or a lot). It’s normal. By the time your child starts preschool you will have gotten to know the preschool teachers pretty well, but you will still be concerned about how your child will fit in, if he or she will have a good time, and generally if everything will be OK.
  • To set a good example. Your child is going to pick up on your being a little worried. That’s what kids do. Make sure you talk (a lot) about what is happening, how the change is a good change and even though it is new, it’s going to wind up being a lot of fun.

What to expect from your child

  • To be a little sad or confused. Even if you know all the statistics about flying, nothing is quite the same as actually taking off for the first time. Especially on the first day, and especially for younger toddlers starting at a brand new home daycare or child care center (not to say that your preschooler will be happy to leave you, of course!)
  • To get used to it. Kids are incredibly adaptable and while it won’t happen overnight, they will get used to their daycare center and go without tears. They may even be bored if they can’t go!

What to expect from your child care provider or preschool teacher

  • To know what to do. In all likelihood your child’s is not the first case of “starting preschool blues” they have handled. Even if it is, comforting your child, being patient, and some extra cuddling are basics that just come naturally to caregivers and preschool teachers.
  • To give you feedback about how it is going. They should keep notes about how your infant is eating, how your toddler or preschooler is playing and learning, and generally how well the adaptation process is going. As above, the chances are very good that you are not the first “first timer” parent that they’ve dealt with, and they know what your questions are before you even ask!

How was your experience starting daycare or preschool? Is there anything else you’d like to share with first-time parents about what to expect?

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  • Thanks for assuring me that it is perfectly normal for my toddler to feel sad or confused especially if it is her first time at a daycare center. My daughter has never been out of my sight but now that I’ll be starting my job, we have no choice.

  • I think one of the most important things to do to cope with large changes is to set the right expectations for yourself and others. It’s really helpful to know what things and feelings to expect when you send a child to preschool. It’s comforting to know that it’s normal for children to feel a little bit nervous, but that they’ll get used to preschool and they’ll be fine. I also like the idea of having a teacher that knows how to handle children that feel that way.

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