5 Mothers On Preparing Kids For PreSchool
The idea of our babies going off to a classroom with a cubby and a backpack is both outrageously cute and emotional for everyone involved. We have three days of school under our belt with a healthy combination of excitement and nerves.
For Bodie, it helped that we were familiar with the school having done a two week summer camp (orientation) there and getting to reference it for the months in between. In the week or two prior we got really into reading Llama Llama Misses Mama which does a nice job of balancing the good and fun things about the classroom with the reality of what it’s like to separate. Finally and I credit this completely to our school, our teachers paid us a visit with little staples (two stuffed puppets) from the classroom that we got to talk about afterward to help build the connection. Bodie walked right in on the first day looking for Shira the parrot and Mimi the cow.
As many of us navigate or anticipate this milestone, we wanted to hear from some of the women in our community on their approach in preparing, establishing new routines and handling the hiccups. Below are five mothers we admire on their transition into the new school year.
Daniella, mother to one, Brooklyn, NY
I would have never thought that I’d be the mom to send her kid to school at 18 months. I initially believed that kids (ha! generalizing all kids is so silly to me now) should stay at home as long as possible. But by the time 18 months rolled around for Ness he was READY. Ready for action. Ready to learn. Ready to be with other kids - many of whom are up to a year and a half older than him (Montessori classrooms are mixed-age which for Ness is bomb). And I was ready. Ready for the morning to myself. Ready to have a set schedule. Ready to not think about work from 12 pm on when I am with Ness.
I was nervous about drop off. And about phasing him in gradually and gently. So here’s what we did:
1. Dan and I checked OUR PERSPECTIVES about school. We both love learning, crave routine and are social animals. So school, to us, isn’t a punishment. Amidst the conversations regarding starting school at any age is the expectation for fights and meltdowns... and we just put that out of our minds. When we drop Ness of at school, we know we’re doing this for him and yeah, for the health and hygiene of our family because everyone needs their time. Having this attitude has lifted our spirits higher than ever.
2. We searched high and low for the right environment for Ness. We love the school Ness goes to and aren’t settling at all. We’re not biding our time; we’re genuinely excited for him and for us that we get to interact with his amazing teachers every day.
3. Every day, or as often as possible, this summer we got Ness dressed and ready to go on a walk to school at around drop off time. We’d roll up to school and talk about the day he’s going to go in and meet all of his friends. We’d talk about it all the time with him, and when we’d mention it to others in his presence, we’d bring him in on the conversation.
4. Dan (my husband) does drop off. I say my goodbyes at home, and the boys are off on their way!
5. I assume Ness’ competence. I hold him in high esteem. I believe in him as an individual which might come naturally to some moms, but for most of us, this is a practice. I practice seeing him as whole, complete and separate from me. And on days when he came home sobbing, I reminded myself, Dan and Ness, that learning and growing can be uncomfortable sometimes. And that’s ok. I recalled all the times I was afraid to do something and when I did it anyway, tasted the sweetness of conquering fear. It builds confidence and a sense of ease in our skin: to know that we’ll be ok.
And he has been since that first week. Of course, there will be hiccups. To be expected. And yes he’s been a bit more sensitive and even tired. How could he not be! Overall though, he runs into class, could care less about me when I pick him up, talks about his friends “Teddy” “Marlowe” “Mirez” (for Ms. Ramirez). He’s starting to use Spanish words (it’s a Spanish immersion program), play independently (Montessori for the win!), and he smiles/ laughs/ kisses/ runs/ jumps MORE. I mean, he’s happy. And so am I. Yay.
Tara, mother to two, Hoboken, New Jersey
We believe there is not one perfect strategy for preparing your kid for school. Having multiple of our own, we can see that our kids respond to things entirely differently. Some kids want to talk it all through, and other kids can get anxiety when you speak about it too much.
Strategies that we find work well for all types:
2. Hug/Some sort of physical touch and have your fun way to say goodbye.
3. Celebrate whatever they bring home - put art up on the fridge, etc. and talk about the fun things they get to make in school. Show them you are proud of them and can't wait to see what else they get to make/do.
+ It's okay to tell them that you miss them too and talk about what you did while they were in school.
+ We had a difficult day with drop off this week so I drew a heart on my arm and his arm and told him to look at it when he misses me and know that I am looking at my arm missing him (and that we will be together soon!) Wish I could take credit for this idea, but I saw it somewhere and don't remember where.
Katy, mother to four, Chicago, Illinois
When it comes to helping my kids transition to school, I find that the most helpful thing I can do is lower expectations, on all of us (including myself). Transitions can be tricky, for kids and adults alike. So first and foremost I try and go into the new school year with really honest and realistic expectations. We are going to run late, and it will ok. My kids are going to have meltdowns, and it will be ok. Forms, homework, lunch boxes, all will be forgotten or lost, and it will be ok. But what makes all of this so much harder, is when we expect those things NOT to happen. So this year, we are all working hard as a family to be more realistic with our expectations, and be more forgiving of ourselves and each other when those things happen.
Ethel, mother to two, Miami, Florida
We LOVE school, so far so GREAT. I guess it also depends a LOT on the type of environment they are going into. The boys go for 3 hours to a Reggio Emilia method school, where parents are involved. You are welcome to stay and play during the 30min drop-off window, there are no hallways but a plaza where parents and kids gather, linger, greet, share... so it really does not feel like this estranged, serious, rigid place... the flow of the morning, the teachers and the culture in there is so cheerful and catered toward them and their individualities that it makes it a place they WANT to go because they ENJOY their time there.
Also, the school believes in the transition period where in the first two weeks (up to 30 days!) you can take your child just for an hour, then adding bits of time so it does not feel so abrupt suddenly being “left” at an unknown (although wonderful!) place... by the time they reach staying for the full period they already feel nicely integrated.
Back home at night we read an AMAZING book about school and all the fun things that happen there that also address feelings of being scared to go. And, since both of my kids are early risers we have veeeeery calm slow mornings, eat breakfast together, play, and stroll to school together at a leisurely pace... I read so much (because it is a big reality!) about rushed mornings, and bolting out the door, and the frazzled drop-off moment, and I am a strong believer that what happens prior to school sets the tone on their mood.
Svenja, mother to two, New York, NY
Before we started, we read Maisy Goes To Preschool, a cute book that helped her understand the routines (arrival, snack time, nap etc). Tilly goes to school now and says “like Maisy!” We also walked by the school a lot and always told her, “Wow!!! This is your preschool!”
We try to always be positive about school. We don’t leave room for our doubts etc. “Yay preschool! Mommy drops you off and then you have fun... etc...”
My husband and I walk her together as often as possible and built a new morning routine (grab coffee & croissants, walk, count birdies on the way, etc.)
We’re mindful of the following as we go through the transition:
Positive language - we try never to ask, “Did you cry?” and instead using positive words like “Did you enjoy?” “Did you have fun?”
Positive bonding - positive separation! I keep in mind that separation is part of the development. Like crawling, walking etc.