The big kids are in school and now it's time for the little kids to follow in their footsteps. Preschoolers across the region will be meeting their teachers in the next week and heading to school for the first time, in some cases.
I've been there and will be there in the next couple of weeks. I expect tears (in addition to my own) and some tough goodbyes. But, for my family, preschool is an important part of growing up. Kids learn the tools that will help them become successful in school - academically, but most importantly at this age, socially.
I checked in with the directors of three local preschools to get some tips on how to make those first tough days a success. You'll notice they all agree on one thing: Don't linger on that first day! I completely agree.
Here's what they told me:
Denyse Oeltjenbruns, director of hopekids preschool in Garner:
- Kiss 'n Go: Crying kids happen. While some children will walk into a classroom without even turning to wave at you, most shed a few tears. Trying something new is hard! Whether it's your child's first time in preschool or you're already in year three, tell your child you love her, give her a kiss, and hand her over to the teacher or assistant. Crying almost always stops within a few minutes of parents' departure. In the rare cases where it doesn't, remember, you are just a phone call away!
- Playdate: Many preschools offer a class playdate before school begins. If your child's preschool doesn't, contact the director and offer to help organize one. Meeting a few new friends before the first day gives little ones even more to be excited about and makes that first day a little easier for everyone!
- Meet the Other Moms: Make the effort to get to know the parents of the other children at your child's preschool. Whether it's just to talk for a few minutes in the hallway at drop-off and pick-up times or heading out for a coffee before your weekly Target run, getting to know the other families at your child's preschool can really pay off. You will undoubtedly have the opportunity to comfort one another about the alarming rate at which your children are growing or who knows, you may find your family's best friends for life!
Christine Teander, owner and director of AsheBridge Children's Academy in Cary:
- Speak excitedly about school without dwelling on it. Books about school are a great way to bring up the subject without going overboard. We’re fans of the Bernstain Bears and Clifford, though there are many other good ones too.
- Never tell your child that you will miss him or her during school. Your child already has personal emotions and it is unfair to be weighed down with yours as well. I have had several children in the past who were very emotional because they were convinced that the parents were sitting at work or home bawling in despair because they missed the child so much. If your child brings up the subject, acknowledge the feeling, but avoid returning it. "I know sweetie and I love you. I'll be back soon. Have a great day!"
- Keep your own emotions in check – happy or sad! It’s OK to shed a tear or dance with joy in the parking lot! Just try to hold it together and remain calm until you leave.
- Always K.I.S.S. goodbye. That stands for Keep It Short and Sweet. Come into the classroom, help put belongings away in the cubby, give a hug, and then step out of the room. Even if your child is weepy, rest assured that nobody cries all day and that every day will become easier for both of you.
Missy Farrow, director of Trinity Presbyterian Preschool in Raleigh:
- If your preschool has a “meet the teacher day” make sure to attend. This will ease a lot of fears for your child.
- Take your child shopping for a new backpack of their choice.
- Ask your child’s teacher if they have an supplies they need that you can donate and have your child help shop for those donations.
- Read books like: ‘Froggy Goes To School’ by Frank Remkiewicz, or ‘What to Expect at Preschool’ by Heidi Murkoff and ‘The Kissing Hand’ by Audrey Penn.
- Bring tissues the first day!
- Meet other parents and set up a coffee date.
- Try not to linger too long the first few days. This can make your child more anxious.
- Offer to volunteer in your child’s class.
- While your child is in school, take the time to have some “me” time!
If you're still looking for a preschool, I'll note that both hopekids and Ashebridge currently have openings. Hopekids also will host an open house from 11 a.m. to noon Sept. 1. Check the links above for more information about all three schools.
And to find other preschools in the region, check our preschool database.