The following guide for parents of new preschoolers can help prepare for navigating this big change in your lives and get the school year started off right:
Easing your child's fears
How do we get all students going in the right direction? RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Credit: Maureen Downey
Credit: Maureen Downey
Gradually introduce your child to their preschool as well as some of the activities they're likely to participate in. Keep it low-key so your child doesn't feel anxious or overwhelmed and talk to your child about what to expect. If you and your child can meet the teacher and visit the classroom a few times before school starts, your child is likely to feel more relaxed and may even get excited about the nice teacher, all the crayons, the brightly colored classroom decorations and more.
Creating a goodbye ritual
Even if you and your child seem ready for this change, you may both react unexpectedly on those first few drop-off days. Try to stay upbeat if at all possible, and if you have any tears, save them for the car. Smile for your child and establish a goodbye ritual like a hug or kiss, high five or special handshake or wave. Never sneak out, but instead offer a cheerful goodbye that will help reassure your child – and maybe yourself.
Establishing a sleep schedule
Establish a consistent sleep schedule well in advance of starting preschool so the change isn't too sudden. Children age 3-5 need about 10-13 hours of sleep a day, including naps. To help them get the rest they need, try to eat about two hours before bedtime and create a bedtime routine that might include taking a bath, brushing teeth, laying out the next day's clothes and preschool supplies, having a snuggle and reading a book. Keep to this consistent routine as much as possible, and if your child is resistant to naps, get them to at least lie down and relax. Find out if kids nap in your child's preschool, and if so, start adjusting their nap schedule to fit this time.
Doing a dry run
After you've adjusted your child's sleep schedule, practice a dry run for getting ready for school. You'll probably get faster as you both get used to the routine, but you don't want to underestimate the amount of time you'll need, especially considering heavy back-to-school traffic. Get up at your planned wake-up time and provide a healthy breakfast for your child. Both of you should get dressed, and you should work together to make sure your child has everything that will be needed, such as a backpack and lunch. Finally, drive by the school to ensure that you're giving yourself enough time. Being rushed in the morning can make the start of any day stressful, especially for a new preschooler and his or her mom.
Looking out for yourself
Preschool is a big transition for moms as well. You'll want to keep busy, and you can do this by treating yourself to a trip to your favorite store or a manicure appointment. If you're not heading off to work after dropping your child off, make an arrangement to meet some other moms with school-age children for coffee or breakfast. And if you're used to working from home but taking some breaks to spend with your child, move to a coffee shop or a public library to work for the first few days so you won't be missing your child at home.
Letting go of the guilt
You may feel guilty when you're dropping your child off at preschool, especially if there are some tears or clinginess on the first few days. But keep in mind that you're leaving him or her in an environment filled with fun things to do and other kids to play and socialize with. They'll soon be coming home with stories about what they did during the day and bringing home an art project they worked on. As for the guilt: Let it go!