What to Watch Out For
Preschools come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. No matter what the configuration, McManus suggests there are two big areas of concern to watch out for: preschools that require a child to be toilet trained; and preschools that require all children to nap.
"Anytime toilet training is an issue, [the preschool is] not being developmentally appropriate." McManus explains that the average two-year-old is ready to start discussing the prospect of toilet training, but doesn’t have the fine motor control to avoid accidents. "The act of going to preschool is such a big thing. A child shouldn’t have to deal with being way from home and with toilet training issues. Requiring toilet training as a prerequisite to enrollment puts too much pressure on the child and the parent. Forcing potty training is a big mistake."
Many children nap, and they need to. But some kids do not, and for these children, enforced napping can be true torture. McManus suggests you look for a preschool that allows some flexibility; perhaps quiet reading time for kids who are giving up naps, the option of playing quietly in another room, or even, for kids ages three to five, the choice of watching a video.
For some children who have been in an organized daycare setting from the time they were infants, the move to preschool may happen easily. For other kids who have been home with a parent, with a nanny, or in a small, shared babysitting arrangement, the adjustment may be more difficult. Remember that change in ritual—of any kind—can be rough on certain kids. Try creating the new morning ritual a couple of weeks in advance of the first big day. If your child will be enrolled full time, let child do a shortened day the first few times. And remember that preschool doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. How about starting two days a week, or two and a half hours a day?
And Then There’s You
I remember the odd and overwhelming sensation of walking out the door of my daughter’s preschool, leaving her behind me. Parents—remember that it’s acceptable and expected that you'll feel sadness about your child going to preschool. It’s a new stage in both of your lives. But McManus warns parents not to share too much of your emotions with your child. "You don’t want your child to feel guilty for having fun, or that he needs to take care of you," McManus says. "Plan something nice for yourself for that first day."