By Jack Alexander C. Herrin, MD
Your youngest child will start preschool soon, and it’s got you a bit worried.
You remember not having any problems with your two elder children—they both seemed excited to go to school—but bunso is a little different. She’s always been a bit clingy and is quite overwhelmed by new places and bigger-sized crowds. She often needs some time to acclimate, and is usually just about to enjoy herself at social gatherings when it’s time to leave. Here are a few things that you can do to help her brave preschool on her first time:
Plan ahead. The goal right from the get-go is to make your daughter less anxious about school even before it starts. One way to desensitize her is to take her with you when you bring her older siblings to school, and again when you pick them up. You can tell her that when she is older, she will be attending school there as well—make sure to point at all the happy children coming out as they are being picked up. Ask your older children as they meet you after class how their day was. Their answers (which we hope will be positive) will go a long way in showing bunso that school can be an exciting to place to be in.
Get her acquainted early on. A week or so before classes begin, ask permission from the school if you and your daughter can drop by to meet her teachers. During your visit, greet each member of the staff you meet, from the guard at the gate, the manongs, to the assistant teachers, and the head teacher. Be a good role model and shake their hands, and ask your child to do the same. This will acquaint her with some of the people she will be seeing everyday for the next year.
Be excited for her; show no fear. On her big day, feel confident as you take her to school, the same way you did when you had your trial runs a week before. Continue the routine of greeting those you meet with a smile or a “Good morning,” and give her a kiss and a hug as you leave her with her teacher. Depending on school policy, linger a bit while she is led in, then discreetly make your exit. You may have to reassure her that you’ll just be around, but don’t make any premature moves that will set her alarms off. Trust in yourself and your child that you have prepared for this day well enough.
Debriefing is important. Smile as you pick your child up after school. Subtly make eye-contact with her teacher to get a feel of how the day went, and quietly take her aside to chat whether or not you sense anything is amiss. Get the names of those your daughter sat beside with today, or those with whom she clicked. Ask about any unpleasant events or talk about good news, then greet your daughter with a big hug as she approaches you.
Celebrate. Celebrate your first day (whether good or bad) with a date. It need not be anywhere fancy, just a place where you can be with your child alone to talk about the day. Probe gently, and ask the right questions. Praise her for her accomplishments, and reassure her if her day did not go so well. Talk about her new friends, and encourage her to engage them again tomorrow and meet the rest of her new classmates.
Lastly, encourage her about how tomorrow will be a GREAT day.
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This article was originally published in Working Mom’s June 2015 issue. Follow Working Mom on Instagram and like their official Facebook page.
Photograph by Rxandy Capinpin for Working Mom Magazine