Leaving your child upset at the school gate is heartbreaking!
But there are some things you can do to ease those difficult early days. Starting day care or preschool is certainly a big deal for both you and your child.
Toddlers, and even preschool children, are often very worried about being left and not feeling safe.
You will know already if your child has this tendency to be upset when you leave them. Hopefully you have made opportunities to leave them for an hour or two over the months before preschool so they build confidence and know that you will indeed return.
Here are a few strategies to try:
- Try to stay with your child for a little time on their first session. Do explain to the staff in charge of your child’s room or group that you may need their support to comfort your child on the first few occasions. Perhaps leave something with your child which will remind them of you.
- Talk through what is going to happen- before you get to preschool and then again before you leave.
“ I am going to work now but I will be back to pick you up and then we will go to the park”.
- Always say goodbye. Reassure them that you know it is hard for them but you will be back soon.
- Ask the staff to assist your child so that you can leave quickly after having said goodbye. Most children are easily distracted and soon are involved in play.
- If you are very concerned you can always ring the preschool to make sure that your child has settled. Otherwise it will be a miserable day at work for you too.
- If your child knows you are coming to pick them up at a certain time and you are held up, it would be wise to ring the preschool and ensure that they speak with your child. Staff will be supportive and reassure your child that you will be on your way soon.
- Perseverance may well be needed, but keeping up a positive front for your child (even if you are not feeling it) will help them continue to see kinder as a good place.
However, some children will always be rather susceptible to anxiety, and parents might need to continually check in with staff about friendships, possible bullying, loneliness and general health indications.
Unfortunately, anxiety can rear its head again after holidays when it feels like you are starting all over again.
Hint: Identify a staff member who works with your child and with whom you can build an understanding and rapport, and who you can trust to provide you with appropriate feedback so both staff and parents can be proactive and keep on top of any major anxiety early.