Thursday, September 3, 2009

Transitioning into Preschool: What to do if Your Child Kicks and Screams

You are working hard to prepare your child for her first day of preschool, but you have a nagging feeling that despite her brave face, she’s never going to walk through that door without you. Some children have a very hard time on the first day, especially if this is their first school experience. Don’t worry. I’ll tell you about one of the toughest kids I helped transition into the classroom, as proof that your child will make it, too.

Mackenzie probably had the hardest time transitioning among her peers. She held onto her mother so hard, that we weren’t sure we’d be able to detach her. Mackenzie’s little fingers were tangled in her mother’s hair and her legs wrapped tightly around her mother’s waist. Mackenzie had older siblings, so her mother knew what to expect. Though she hated to see her child so upset, she knew that she couldn’t give in.

It took two teachers to peel Mackenzie off of her mother. When we finally got her into the classroom, she threw herself onto the floor and cried very hard. My teaching partner scooped her up and put her on her lap at the circle. She rubbed Mackenzie’s back, smoothed her hair, and reassured her that Mommy would be back soon.

It took Mackenzie about a half hour to finally stop crying. When she realized that she was there to stay, she allowed herself to explore what was going on around her. That was on a Monday. Our class meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Wednesday morning, Mackenzie behaved the exact same way she had on Monday. It still took two of us to peel her off her mother and about a half hour for her to calm down. Friday saw a little progress because only one teacher was required to get her into the room and she calmed down in about 15 minutes.

The next Monday was bad again. After being home for two straight days with her family, she was not eager to come back to school. After that, it got a little easier every day. It probably took a full month, but eventually, she walked into the classroom by herself with a big smile on her face. On those days we would tell her how proud we were that she walked in like a big girl and brought her smile to school.

So, please don’t get yourself all worked up if your child takes some time to adjust. The more she sees your optimism and excitement that she will get it together, the quicker that will happen. Assure her that she is safe, that you will always come back, and that once she calms down, she will love school.

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