In BC (Before Children) I was actually a preschool teacher, I have taught at several schools and day cares and therefore I can say that I know a fair bit about 1st days…or first weeks really.
I have seen it all, children crying and holding on to their mothers, mothers crying and holding on to their children, mothers throwing their hands up in the air and saying they weren’t ready, picking up their children and leaving with them, mothers staying the entire day unable to let go and my all time favourite – the mother who cries because her child doesn’t.
I thought that mothers would appreciate some tips for the first days and weeks to help settle..
1. Don’t just spring it on them. In the lead up, talk to your child about changing day cares or moving to preschool. Don’t speak about it so much that they feel anxious but definitely talk about it with them so they know whats happening. Don’t underestimate how much they understand. Speak positively at all times.
2. Take on the routine of “one activity together and then kiss, cuddle and goodbye”. This is probably the key point to this whole blog. It’s important for your child to know that they are not just being dumped in this strange place and you’ll see them at some point in the future (remember they don’t have a concept of time). I know mothers have to run off to feed babies, go to work or if they are lucky for a quiet coffee somewhere but if you invest a little time, I promise you it will be worthwhile. So aim to spend 10 minutes on an activity before leaving. Put your phone on silent and just enjoy the time with your child. At this minute, believe there is nothing more important than that play dough ball you are making or that puzzle piece that doesn’t fit. Let your child choose the activity that you can do together. Once they are happily involved in the activity or have found a little friend to play with, that is your perfect time to tell them you need to go.
3. Once you say goodbye, you go. Don’t stop and chat to another mother, don’t use this as your time to start talking to the teacher, don’t take a call on your phone and fight your urge to stand somewhere semi hidden and spy on your child. Take note from Genesis 19:17 where it says “Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away”. Learn from Ruth and do NOT look back!
4. Never duck out without saying goodbye. Yes this is nice for you that your child is so busy they can’t even look up to wave but it will become the teachers problem when your child does eventually look up and you have disappeared.
5. Pack lunches you know they will love in the beginning. This is not the time to start being adventurous and trying to get them to expand their (fussy) food choices. You just want them to love their day and everything about it. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH A VEGEMITE SANDWICH!
6. If possible do not leave them for such long days in the beginning. Just because it closes at 5:30pm doesn’t mean that you only have to pick them up at 5:20. You want your child to go home remembering what a fun day they had and not how they sat at the gate waiting for you and wondering when you would pitch up.
7. Don’t cry in front of them…even if the anxiety is eating you up inside, keep it inside! As soon as that door closes and you are out of there, I give you full permission to burst out crying! Sob yourself silly!
8. It’s always a lovely idea to put a photo of yourself in their bag or even in their pocket. Tell them that if they ever get sad that they can look at it. I have also seen mothers give a little something of their own to their child. It can be as simple as their hair tie that they had that morning or a bangle they had around their wrist. All these little things will just make them feel like you are with them and they will take comfort from that. Give them something to look forward to, something you can tell them in the morning to keep them excited all day. Maybe you can bring a grandparent to pick up with you or you can tell them you will take them for a baby cino straight after pick up…
9. If the school allows it, let them have their comforter in their bags. Don’t stress about them having it forever, we can deal with that problem later.. Once they are settled and happy my bets are that they won’t want it anymore.
10. If possible, try and just take that child so you can completely focus on them. I know this is not easy for a lot of mothers but those of you that do have some kind of help, this would be a perfect time to use them. Rather than chasing the baby around the kindergarten and saving them from sticking their heads in paint pots,see if you can even meet a grandparent outside who can take the baby off your hands for 10 minutes so that you can do that one special activity and totally focus on your preschooler. Easier said than done I know..
Here’s a link to some healthy lunch box ideas.. (I did read this and really got some good ideas – pity it didn’t translate – A friend had to bail me out and make a vegemite and cheese sandwhich today because this Bellies and Beyond mother totally forgot to buy fresh bread). Either way this site makes for some good inspiration..
Keep in mind that all children are different and respect that about them. My oldest brother is famous for saying to my mum before his first day”drop me at the gate and don’t kiss me” whilst my other brother cried every morning for the duration of preschool. He sobbed just till my mum was out the door and then would start playing – typical middle child! And with me… well my mum doesn’t remember what happened when I started. (And that’s typical of a third child isn’t it?)
I have just gotten back from dropping Mikah at Pre-school, her day 1. It went fabulously and I was even surprised with just how confident she was. Yes I was sad (well gutted to be honest) that she’s growing up so quickly and I’m becoming more redundant but I am just so excited for her. What is better then playing all day? Painting, colouring, exploring, imagining, building friendships, making connections, being curious..she is learning her first life lessons and I couldn’t be prouder. And yes I was that mother that shed a little tear because her daughter didn’t…
Sweet Dreams, Bec x