It’s been a whirlwind these past few months, and our youngest members of society are shouldering an awful lot. Your preschooler may have been suddenly pulled from preschool back in March when the pandemic began. They may have had to stop seeing friends, grandparents, and more. They may have had to stop their dance classes, sports, and other activities.
And all while the stress level of families went up. Many families have dealt with unemployment, working from home, sickness, and fear.
Little children have seen and experienced a lot.
Sending your child back to preschool this fall, where safe to do so, is a good idea. 85% of who you are as an adult was developed before you turned 6. A quality preschool education is important during normal times, and during the time of Covid, it becomes even more necessary.
At preschool, your child has the chance to develop emotional and social skills (even during Covid) in ways they can’t develop at home. Plus, they’ll benefit from exercise, play, routine, and learning a variety of subjects from trained teachers.
But your child may deal with more separation anxiety this year than other years. They’ve likely been at home with you for months. Even if you’ve been working from home, your child has grown accustomed to seeing you all day. Plus, the uncertainty of the last several months may have been upsetting.
This is no ordinary back-to-school.
Follow these tips to make the transition back to preschool an easier, happier one for your child.
Think Back to P.P. (Pre-Pandemic) Times
Before the pandemic, we all had routines. We had to leave the house at certain times of the day, which meant we needed to wake up at certain times of the day and follow certain routines. Bedtime was likely very structured.
Once shut-downs began, many of us relaxed our routines since there was no place to go. Bedtimes relaxed, we may have slept in more, and screens became more prevalent.
To be clear: There’s nothing to feel guilty about. This is just the reality. For now, think back to your schedule before the pandemic, and try to re-incorporate it.
Get to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every day. Follow a getting-ready routine. Wean off the screens a bit.
Don’t worry about academics now. Just focus on getting back on a school routine. Your child’s teachers will handle the academics.
If you’ve been home all together since March, it might be upsetting for your child to be away from you. Begin now to help them separate from you by finding pockets in the day where you actually leave.
Leave the house to run an errand while someone else watches your child. Say goodbye, and when you get home, find your child to give them a hug. This will help them understand that when you leave, you come back.
Every feeling your child is having is valid. Let them know it’s okay to feel how they feel.
Once you’ve validated (and not before), talk to your child about how to cope with their feelings. If they get worried at school, what is something they can do? If they feel worried in the car, what is something they can do? Always reiterate that it’s okay to feel how they’re feeling, and that you can help them through it all.
Explain What’s Happening
It’s been a LONG time since school has been open. Make sure you’re clear with your child about what is going to happen. But keep it simple:
“I have loved being home with you, and now I’m also excited that you get to go enjoy preschool. You’ll get to make friends, and you’ll have a teacher who will take care of you and teach you important things.”
Stay positive. Be careful with your language. Don’t emphasize how much you’ll miss your preschooler. Don’t tell them about fun things you’ll be doing while they’re at school. Instead, focus on the positive of what they’re going to experience: “You get to go on a dinosaur dig today! You are so lucky! Preschool is so fun!”
Allow Your Child’s Teacher to Earn Their Trust
It can feel so hard to walk away, but remember that if YOU are in the vicinity, your child will always see you as the best option. This makes it difficult for your child’s teacher to build a relationship.
Trust your child’s teachers. They’re experts at engaging children in activities that make the transition from Mom or Dad to preschool a positive one. They’re also experts at loving children and helping them feel comfortable.
When your child feels safe and loved, they’ll join in the fun activities at preschool.
Get a Goodbye Phrase Ready
Make parting from each other a cheerful event. Create a happy goodbye routine, and use it ahead of time.
Kids love rhymes and fun phrases. Try one of these: “See you later alligator.” “See you soon, baboon.” “TTFN” (Ta-ta for now).
Add a fist bump or blow a kiss to the routine to make it a friendly, positive connection.
Expect Bumps in the Road
Nobody has returned to school in the midst of a pandemic before. This is new territory for everyone. Expect your child to have behavioral challenges, and that way, you won’t be caught off guard.
Remember that children can’t always tell you what they’re feeling, but their behavior will send you a message if something is wrong. Connect with your child, talk to your child, and validate all feelings.
Give this process time. If, after about three weeks, your child is still struggling with separation anxiety, talk to the teachers about allowing your child to bring a comfort object with them to school.
It might be hard to send your preschooler back to school. Along with the normal emotions of watching your child grow up, you’re now raising your precious child in an uncertain time. If this is jarring or upsetting, you’re not alone.
So take care of yourself. Rely on a support system, get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and take time for yourself. And remember: all your feelings are valid too.
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we understand the special challenges of this time. We’re taking precautions to keep our staff and students safe, and we’re committed to continuing to provide the best preschool education in Utah.
We understand separation anxiety, and that’s why we distribute a special book, video, calendar, and tips to help you get your child ready for this big transition. Your child is strong, and you are too. And we’re here to help every step of the way.
To learn more about us, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.