The thought of your crying toddler screaming as you leave the building is enough to sink any parent into a well of guilt. Rest assured that you aren’t the only parent feeling anxious as the fall school year approaches. Lots of other parents are dreading that drop-off day too.
Most kids adapt relatively quickly to preschool and many love school so much that they don’t want to go home! But before that happens, it’s important to prep yourself (and your child!) for the first day of school. Here are some of our best tips.
- Wake up early enough! There are days of rushed mornings ahead of you, so make sure the first day is one that is smooth and relatively relaxed. Get everyone up at least two hours before school starts, so you can make breakfast, get your toddler dressed, dress yourself (and grab coffee!), and pack your child’s backpack. It’s also a good idea to stick to your current routine as much as possible -- or adjust your current routine to mirror the one that you’ll go through during the school year a few weeks in advance.
- Give your toddler a comforting object to bring to school. This might be a favorite toy, a blankie, or another item that reminds your child of home. You can also give your toddler something of yours (a bracelet, hair elastic, or another thing) to hang onto “until mom or dad comes back to pick you up.”
- Get there early: adjusting to school life will be an adjustment, but it’s a good idea to arrive early enough to get your child used to surroundings, connect with the teacher, and get over any fright.
- Control your emotions: this will be a hard one, but it’s a good idea to schedule something in your world right after your child is dropped off - this way you can leave with a happy face and rush off to where you’re going. Resist the urge to cry, have a breakdown, or ask the teacher a million questions before leaving.
- Keep it short: tell your child -- it’s not a good idea to leave when your child isn’t looking! -- that you’ll be back “after recess or lunch or whenever” and let them know that you’re leaving. Even if your child is clinging, detach them, turn around, and exit. It’s hard to believe, but your toddler will be fine once you are out of the picture (and teachers are well-versed in sobs!).
- Know the pick-up routine in advance and don’t be late: a child that expects mom or dad right after lunch isn’t going to fare well if you are late. Make sure to note who is picking your child up, find out where and how to pick kids up (do you need a sign? Is there a line? What time?) and be on time.