There's something bittersweet about sending your child off to preschool or even kindergarten for the first time: you're thrilled about the prospect of a few hours of adult time, but you miss your little buddy to pieces and can't imagine that your sweet baby is actually ready for backpacks, lunch boxes, and group naptime. Whether your child begins daycare at 6 weeks or preschool at 3 years, the key to a smooth transition is consistency.
Tina Locke, co-owner of Step Forward Day School, an award-winning preschool in Franklin, Tennessee, says, "Children learn that whether they cry for a minute or jump right in and play, Mom goes home ... and comes back a few hours later."
Locke says that parents' attitudes are the number one influence on a child's attitude about school. "Instead of saying, 'You are so lucky because you get to go to school, learn all sorts of new things, make friends, and play with toys,' you've got some parents who actually bribe children with toys if they go to school!" Locke says. She adds that if parents give their kids a quick kiss and wave goodbye at the door (rather than lingering around the classroom and making it difficult for teachers to bond with the children), the majority of preschoolers will happily adjust after just a few visits. "I've never had a child have a problem after three weeks," Locke says. The upshot here is that with a consistent and brief goodbye routine and a sunny attitude, your little one will be singing new songs, talking about new friends, and bringing home stacks of fantastic noodle artwork in no time!
True Life Tale: Babysitters and preschool teachers will all tell you that the second time is the hardest. The first day of school is such of whirlwind of new people and activities that kids don't really have time to miss Mommy. By the second or third morning, kids realize that Mom is leaving again and things can get teary. This happened to both my daughters when they began attending preschool at age two. Most teachers are willing to give you a quick phone report 10 minutes later to let you know that all's well and your little one is happily finger painting with the rest of the class.