The most significant transition that has taken place in my toddler’s life (and mine as a mom) is having started formal schooling. I believe a child learns Day in and Day out and not specifically in a formal set up. However, I chose formal schooling because it’s a great way of encouraging social development and promoting independence in a child.
For most children saying goodbye to their parents is challenging. School hours would be the first time my son would stay without me and I wasn’t expecting him to accept this easily. Even for kids who have stayed without their parents either with other caregivers or at the day care, the school environment is likely to get overwhelming.
After uncontrollable tantrums and loud cries, he (read we) have finally arrived at comfort with his educational institute.
These are ten things you must keep in mind as you and your toddler commence an over a decade long relationship with schooling.
#1 Prepare yourself
Being a “stay-at-home-mom”, I was apprehensive and skeptical about handing over my son to another caregiver initially. It was only after a zillion questions and discussions I developed faith in the institute and it’s teachers, which made me comfortable about my decision. This helped me facilitate a positive relationship between my son and the school authorities. If you are unsure of what you are doing your child is likely to feel the same.
#2 Prepare your child
– read books about school. We had a Peepa Pig book that I introduced to my son when he was 18 months of age. As the time to begin preschool approached we started to read more of that book to him.
– recite and sing poems and songs about school. A rhyme as simple as teddy bear teddy bear turn around worked for us. (we made our own school song that I’d sing every morning before school )
– talk to your child about the school. How and why you think it’s a prefect place.
– visit the school with your child and talk about the school environment a few times thereafter.
– don’t make it sound like a big deal. Statements like ‘You are going to school, aren’t you excited?’ are likely to make a child anxious. How about making it sound like you were going to the park?
#3 Progress Gradually
Most preschools allow parents to stay in with the child for the first few days to acquaint the parent and the child with the school environment. Make the most of that time. It’s a good idea to tell your child for how long you are going to accompany him to school to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.
#4 Go slow
Once our decided number of days for which I could accompany my son to the classroom were over. It was time to say good bye to him at the school gate. He would cry and return in ten minutes. Fortunately the school authorities had similar vision as mine and were against compelling a child to stay back. We unanimously decided to let him take his own time to settle in. The duration extended from ten minutes to thirty to an hour and after two months he has started to stay in school for two hours.
#5 Communicate with the teacher
My son’s teacher and I would have regular conversations about him. We would exchange relevant information about him at school and at home. When she handed over a balloon and stars to him just like I did at home, he felt the warmth and comfort with the teacher. You could have phone conversations in your child’s absence for private discussions, and have casual discussions in front of your child. A child would feel confident, watching two significant people in his life have a warm and friendly conversation.
#6 Don’t make false promises
Neither I nor any teacher at the school ever make a false promise to him. If I said I would be waiting outside, I would wait in school for him. If the teacher said she would take him to Mumma after he solved the animal puzzle she made sure she did it. Aim at building trust in the institute and the teachers. Making false promises, bribing or compelling may not help you achieve your long term goal of making your child love school.
#7 Form a routine
One does not really have to try to set a routine with toddlers. Over a period you and your child are going to have a morning routine that is most comfortable. For us – its wake up, have breakfast, bathe, comb, read while mom does other chores and dresses up, comb hair (that’s when the crying would begin), wear shoes and leave. Once school becomes are part of his routine, he is likely to accept it as a way of life.
#8 Hang in there
It is undoubtedly a bitter feeling to watch your child plead for your company. Expect that your child will take time and understanding at this milestone in his life. Try and be as happy and confident about the situation, a child is likely to take cues from his parent’s behaviour.
#9 Don’t compare
There are going to be children at the preschool who are going to say goodbye to their parents with a smile and a flying kiss. Don’t compare your situation with anyone else’s. Because your child is unique and so are you!
Eventually it’s a phase you are going to live talking about to your child when he is a grown up. I think I am going to tell my grandkids how their dad behaved too!