Back to School! Helping Your Kids Adjust to a New School: PRESCHOOLERS​

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Starting school—or starting at a NEW school—is challenging for any kid (and parent!). Since many families move to the suburbs during the summer, the first day of school is often filled with added pressures and anxiety. Not only is your child in a new town, a new neighborhood and away from familiar NYC, but she’s now in a big new school surrounded by new (soon-to-be!) friends, teachers and other families. But with a little prep work over these next few weeks you’ll ease the transition into her new school and ensure the year starts off right! This week: helping preschoolers adjust to a new—or a first—school!

Is your preschooler is starting a new suburban school this September? Or, even, is he going to school for the very first time—but in your new town? The transition from preschool to preschool or daycare/home to preschool can be a challenging one for both parents and students. Here’s what to remember on day one, and some simple hands-on tips and tricks for prepping you and your child starting right now.

Separation Anxiety is REAL

Even if you’ve got the most social, most outgoing kid on the block, transitioning to preschool can be tough, especially in the first few days. Compound that with the other changes in his life—a new town, a house, schedule shifts, new childcare providers—and it’s easy to see why starting school can be tricky.

Acknowledging separation anxiety is an important step in helping your child adjust to school—or to a new school. Listen to his feelings, help him articulate what’s upsetting him and try to keep other aspects of his life stable and consistent. Reminding him of times he felt anxious and overcame it—maybe the big slide at the playground or swimming in the pool—can be helpful ways to put the anxiety he’s feeling in perspective. And remember, kids can regress when it comes to separation anxiety. Just because he jumped right in on the first day of school doesn’t mean tomorrow or next week, even, will be so smooth. Keep an eye out for warning signs and be prepared to provide the love and support he needs to get through it.

Don’t Ditch & Dash

Some parents try the “throw them off the deep end” approach to school drop off. For preschoolers adjusting to school or to a new school this can add even more undue pressure and anxiety to the mix. Don’t sneak out of the room and, likewise, don’t tell your child you’ll stay put (in the hallway, a nearby bench or classroom, the office) if you aren’t planning to. While this may ease anxiety in the immediate short-term, once she realizes you’re gone it will make tomorrow’s drop off even more difficult.

Visit the Old Neighborhood

It may seem counterintuitive, but visiting your old building, neighborhood or favorite places—a park, restaurant or play space, for example—can ease your child’s suburban transition. Make a play date with old friends immediately following her first week in the new school so she can see that piece of her life won’t go away just because her immediate environment has changed. Often these connections can make a big difference come Monday morning!

Visit His New School NOW

Call the school and see if you can come by with your child to visit. Walk through the halls, point out artwork and other fun features and, if you can, stop in and say hi to his new teacher. Often teachers are in and out in the weeks leading up to the first day and are happy to spend a few minutes chatting with you and your child. Take some snapshots around the school—your child by his cubby, outside of the classroom, on the playground—and show him when pre-preschool anxiety attacks.

The first day of preschool—or in a new preschool—is an exciting time for any family. Plan ahead so day one is as smooth, positive and productive as possible. Happy back-to-school!

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