- 4September 2015
A lot of the most memorable moments for kids are “I have no idea what I’m doing” moments for parents. If you’ve never put a child in preschool, you probably look every bit as nervous as your little one on that first day. But you can prep yourself by learning some of the stuff that only time-tested parents already know about preschool.
- It’s Not Daycare: Hey, we get that you might be a little overjoyed at the thought of two or three hours to yourself, courtesy of your child’s preschool teacher. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a preschool teacher is just a glorified babysitter. Your little one is learning the basics of education, social skills and artistic expression as well as how to do things for himself—skills that another child care provider may not tackle.
- Your Perspective Will Change: At home, your little guy is the center of pretty much everything. After all, he’s the smartest, most charming, funniest and sweetest child ever, right? Well, here’s the thing about preschool: It can be a rude awakening that your child isn’t the center of everyone’s universe. Don’t expect special treatment from the preschool teacher and keep in mind that most of the other parents think their child is numero uno, too.
- Your Child Will Change: Teacher and educational psychologist Jennifer Little warns that your child might be a little different after a month or two of preschool. “The biggest problem I’ve seen is that parents don’t know what their child has to do in preschool and how the child will be changed by those experiences. They don’t realize how the dynamics of a group of children change every child’s behavior…or how structured preschool has to be.”
- Don’t Compare: Whether it’s a freakishly smart kid who can recite all the U.S. presidents, a gorgeous little girl with bouncy curls or a child who has amazing artistic ability right off the bat, it’s tempting to compare your little one with the other kids. While you can’t help yourself from peeking at another child’s paper, make sure you don’t use it as a measuring stick for your own kid because preschool kids are all at varying levels of social and academic development.
- It’s More Than Academics: Don’t sweat it if, after a few months of preschool, your child doesn’t suddenly blossom into a tiny genius. The truth is that while most preschools offer academic lessons, the end goal isn’t to get your child ready for the SATs. Instead, preschool is about learning to socialize, take directions, spend time with people outside of the house and get ready for kindergarten.
- Register Early:Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have all summer to register your child for daycare. Most registration periods happen before the summer so the teacher has time to buy supplies and get set up. Ask around and you’ll probably find that it’s best to get registered in May. As an added bonus, the earlier you register, the more time you and your little one have to get to know the new teacher, which can help calm any first day jitters … for both of you.
- It’s Just the Beginning: Is your child the one kicking and screaming as you drop him off to school? Clinical psychologist Mark McKee tells parents not to sweat it. “A child that hates preschool may end up loving and excelling in school later on,” he says. Take a deep breath and remember that the more your child goes to preschool, the less of a fight it will become.
So, you’ve got the pencils, crayons and construction paper for your child to take to school, but don’t forget that a good attitude is important too. Watching your child make the leap from “Center of the Universe” at home to being one of a group of children might seem scary to you, but eventually he’ll love it. Now … what are you going to do with those two free hours?