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Six strategies for easing the transition to preschool

One of the great benefits of preschool is that it helps children learn how to be with other children and how to be in groups lead by other adults. This is also the great challenge of preschool. Here are some general steps you can take to support preschool readiness:

Books about going to school:

The children’s librarians at your local library will be able to help you find fun, engaging stories about going to school. They will also be able to find stories about children who were scared and managed to conquer their fears. Before sharing them with your child, be sure you read them first and decide if you like the way the characters problem-solve. From there you can have casual conversations during day-to-day interactions that will become part of your child’s understanding of how school works and how children manage being independent of their parents.

Explore group activities:

Again, libraries have story times that children attend with their caregivers. This is an opportunity to practice listening and learning from another adult while being supported. When we are fortunate we also find other families of children the same age to explore peer play dates and build peer friendships.

Explore places for your child to practice:

When learning new skills the goal is to offer practice without overwhelming the learner. Families are highly creative as they explore this option: It may be a church nursery that will page a parent if the child is distressed more than 15 minutes; it may be childcare at the gym the parent uses; it may be a co-operative Parents Day Out program in which the parent is there sometimes but not all the time.

Teach a feeling vocabulary:

Often we forget that children do not have words for their fears, worries, happy, and sad experiences. Teaching the words allows us to also talk about what helps us when we have these emotions. For example, “When we’re afraid we can ask teachers to keep us company until we feel better.”

Use the tools that your child already has on hand:

If there is a stuffed toy or other transition object that your child has claimed, it is perfectly appropriate to pack it in their backpack to have with them.

Honor your child’s life experiences and yourself as coach and parent:

In other words, do not use language that belittles him (names like cry baby) or discount the child’s reality (“there is nothing to be afraid of”). And, project confidence in their ability to learn and also in yourself to help when they need help.

Finally, guard yourself and your family from any outside expectation of when your child should be ready. Remember, too, that though both are called three, there is a big difference between “just turned three” and “almost four.” And some children need additional time for the emotional and social development that allows them to enter as relaxed learners. Taking the readiness steps listed above will do much to help your child to enjoy the preschool experience.

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