Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, September 10, 2012

10 Tips for a Successful Start to Your Child’s Pre-School Year

For as long as he can remember, your little one has dreamed of the day that he’d be going to school, just like his older siblings or the “big kids” on the block.  Now that his time has come, he may be re-thinking this fondest wish.  Here are ten tips for helping your pre-schooler overcome the normal anxieties associated with separating from mom and starting school:

1.        Attend pre-school orientation with your child.  Most schools offer brief getting-acquainted sessions during the week before school actually begins.  These 1-2 hour sessions allow parents to complete necessary paperwork and give kids the opportunity to become familiar with the classroom and their playmates-to-be.

2.       Make preparing for school fun!  Take your child shopping with you and let him pick a fun outfit for the first day of school.  Buy a colored 2-pocket folder and sit down with your child as he personalizes it with stickers, markers, and his name.

3.       Talk about all of the fun things that he will do at school each day.  Keep your focus positive.

4.       Give your child a thorough preview of the school day, from the fact that you will be dropping him off and leaving for a period of time, to the solid reassurance that you will be back to pick him up.

5.       Allow your child to ask questions about school.  Openly and honestly address any concerns he expresses.  The opportunity to talk about his feelings ahead of time is a powerful stress reliever.

6.       Go to the Library and help your child select books about the first day of school.  Unless they are all already checked out, there are tons of school-related titles in print for kids!

7.       Help your child imagine how a favorite character would adjust to starting school or would overcome his fears about the first day.

8. Remind your child of other “brave” things he has done recently, such as trying a new food, going on a new amusement park ride, or sleeping without a nightlight. 

9. Support and affirm whatever emotions your child expresses at drop-off time on the first day of school.  Stop short of giving in to his pleas to take him home before school even starts or staying with him the whole time, but do reassure him that his feelings are normal and that he will be okay.

10. Give him a loving hug and a quick kiss and make your exit from the classroom promptly.  Lingering at the door only prolongs your child’s distress, while at the same time interfering with the teacher’s efforts to redirect your child toward positive classroom activities.  It may break your heart in the moment, but pre-school teachers say that the best thing you can do to ensure a successful first day is to leave the room and let the school year begin!

      Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker, mother of two, and author of three books, including How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens.  For workshop inquiries, please visit her at or Follow her on Twitter @SigneWhitson

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