by Dr. Brenda Hussey-Gardner, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Author of Parenting to Make a Difference
Preschool has replaced kindergarten as the first school experience for many children; for some, it is also their first experience away from home. In preschool, many children acquire the skills they need for kindergarten and learn how to socialize.
Preparing me for school. This process usually occurs during the summer before I start preschool. Many children experience some anxiety about starting preschool. The fear of the unknown creates much of this anxiety. To relieve it, introduce the concept of preschool to me and show me the school. Talking with me about a friend who goes to school is an excellent way of introducing the topic of school to me. Reading books about preschool is another way. Playing preschool is also an excellent way to prepare me for the routine of my preschool. If I will ride a bus to school, pretend to ride a bus or sing the song, ‘The Children on the Bus.” Although playing school helps prepare me for the routine and rules of my school, I may still have trouble picturing what school will be like for me. Actually showing me the preschool provides me with an image of my school and helps me more accurately imagine what preschool will be like.
Supporting me throughout the preschool years, beginning on the first day of school and continuing until I graduate to kindergarten. During the first few days of preschool, most of your support will revolve around easing separation. Avoid arriving at the school too early. It only prolongs the act of separation for me. As difficult as it may be, do not remove me from the classroom if I cry. Bringing me home because I cry may reinforce the crying and may even increase the crying throughout the adjustment period. As long as I am in a loving environment, the teacher, aide, or director will give me the support and gentle encouragement I need to make the transition. Communicating with my teacher is an important part of supporting my preschool experience. Speak with my teacher weekly. Arrange to have a more in-depth parent-teacher conference twice a year. Besides communicating with my teacher, ask me about preschool. Each day after school, take a few minutes to talk about my day at school. I may feel sad when school closes for a holiday. Prepare me for this ahead of time, by mentioning that it will be the last week of school before winter break. In the same way, prepare me for the summer break.