Adjusting to life in preschool is the first challenge in the life of a child.
As parents we look expectantly at our children and eagerly anticipate them to smoothly transition from being at home all day – to being at school for several hours. We expect them to mould themselves effortlessly as they move from being with people they know all day to being with complete strangers for several hours. We expect them to transition from usually being the only adored child in the family to having to compete with 20 or more children for attention. And we expect them how to learn play with other children in a jiffy where they have been used to playing by themselves all this while.
The transition from home to school is not easy for a child. It is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. And if want our children to adjust to life in preschool easily – we must help them to overcome these challenges.
Help your new preschooler to overcome physical challenges
When a child is at home – the whole house usually adjusts itself to the child’s needs. The routine of the house is set according to the needs of the child and also adjusts itself as the needs of the child change from day to day.
When the child goes to school – this does not hold true. Preschool begins at a particular set time and proceeds in a set pattern regardless of the moods of the child.
It is important to help the child adjust his own personal hygiene, sleep and food routines such that it fits seamlessly with the routine of the school.
If you are the parent of a new preschooler – here is what you can do
- Ensure that your child sleeps early in the evening so that he is able to wake up with a reasonable amount of time in hand to go through his morning routine without hurrying
- Give your child enough time to move his bowels and empty them in the morning. A child who is constipated or a child who is constantly feeling the urge to go to the toilet in school will not be able to focus on anything in school. He/she will be in a bad mood and uncomfortable throughout the day
- Allow your child sufficient time to eat a wholesome healthy breakfast. A hungry child will be dull and irritable in school and will not be able to focus in school or get along with his friends.
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Help your new preschooler to overcome emotional challenges
The preschool experience can be a roller coaster ride for a child. It is an tough emotional journey for a child and can be tough for someone so small.
He/she will have to transition from being the focus and center of every one’s attention of home – to being one of twenty children who must wait for the teacher’s attention.
He/she will have to transition from having his/her every whim and fancy catered to – to having to listen to and obey instructions from the teacher
He/she will have to move from knowing that he/she will have full right and first preference to play with any toy or game – to waiting his/her turn as other children take their turns.
He/she will have to take up challenges and move from doing familiar things that he/she is used to in the home set up – to doing new things which he/she may not be so good at on first attempt.
The preschool journey will bring your child a few pegs lower than where he had imagined he stood in the scheme of things in the world.
If you are the parent of a preschooler – this is what you can do
- Build your child’s self-esteem – As your child understands his place in the world make sure you let him know that his/her position in your heart is unchanged. Even if life becomes really busy once your child starts going to school – make sure you spend lots of time with your child to show him/her that he/she is important
- Don’t compare – When your child joins school – you are bound to see some areas in which other children are far ahead of your child. Don’t let this bother you. This is just the beginning of your child’s learning curve. Your child will surely catch up. If you constantly compare and tell your child to be like others – your child will feel insecure. And in an environment where your child is already slightly insecure because of the hours he/she is spending away from you – this can make the adjustment process even more difficult.
- Help your child to make friends – As our children step out into the world – it is natural for us to view everyone else with suspicion. We are constantly wary of what another person – especially another child may do to injure our child physically or hurt him/her mentally. As concerned as we may be however, what we must understand is – that children have to find their own way in life. Small childhood fights are essential for your child to learn empathy and the negotiation skills that he/she needs to survive in this world. Allow your child to handle his/her fights with his/her peers. Don’t swoop in to fix the fights. Do your part to show your child that the school environment is safe and that the children around are fine to play with by making friends with the parents of the other children.
- Respect your child’s teacher – Much of what your child learns in school is going to come from the teacher. Your child will have to listen to the teacher and follow instructions in order to learn and also in order to settle into the classroom. Make sure you convey to your child that you agree with his/her teacher. Let your child understand that what the teacher says is right and good. Never criticise your child’s teacher. If sow the seed of doubt and mistrust in your child’s mind about the teacher – your child will find the adjustment to preschool much more difficult.
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Help your new preschooler to overcome learning challenges
When a child first begins school – much of what he/she learns in school may seem abstract and irrelevant. Your child’s brain may refuse to accept and absorb what is being taught in school because it makes no sense to her/him. School learning is also likely to involve sitting in one place for several minutes at a time – which may not be something your child is used to and may resent. All this may slow down the learning process.
If you are the parent of a new pre-schooler – here is what you can do
- Connect school learning to everyday life – Help your child to make sense of what he/she is learning in school. Take him/her grocery shopping and show him how numbers are important. On drives through the city help your child to read billboards with the new alphabets that are being taught in school
- Allow your child to move around – A child who has started school is already sitting in one place for several hours and obeying instructions from many people. When your child comes back home allow her/him to move around – don’t ask your child to sit and study at home. Don’t give your child too many instructions and don’t expect too much obedience at home in the first few days. Remember to give your child freedom at home so that he does not resent the rules she/he has to follow in school
- Allow your child to make mistakes – It can be embarrassing when your child makes a mistake and the whole world is there to see it. It can make you want to prevent mistakes by doing things perfectly yourself instead of allowing your child to do them. It can also lead to your scolding your child for the mistakes or covering up your child’s mistakes. But don’t do any of these things. Making mistakes is the best way to learn. Allow your child to make mistakes and learn from them.
Also read How do children learn?
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The preschool journey can be a fun and exciting journey of discovering the world for your child. All you need to do is to ease the bumps the journey by doing your part. Make sure you do what is required of you.