Whether through research, stories from other parents, or your own personal experiences, you were fully aware that there could be some issues with your toddler entering preschool. You expected there to be some tears (for both you and your toddler), but all in all, you figured with time, things would get better. Now, weeks later and your toddler still seems to be having difficulties adjusting to being in school. Short of quitting your job and homeschooling your child, you have no idea what to do to make things right.
The fear of being away from mom and dad, the pressures of fitting in with their peers, and the stress of being in a new place for a better part of the day can make it challenging for toddlers starting preschool. Though in most cases these overwhelming emotions subside, there are instances in which they don't. When this happens, it is important for parents to take action to help their little ones cope. Below, are a few suggestions on how to do this:
Give it Time
Preschool can be an exciting yet confusing time in your child's life as they learn to adjust to new people, places, and things. While some children will adjust fairly easily, others can take more time. So, the first bit of advice would be to give it time. Continue your routines as you have and wait it out. It can take up to a month or more for your child to get used to preschool. Unless there is an obvious issue, trust that you did all of your research and that the preschool you chose is providing a safe, nurturing place for your child that has equal parts fun and learning with transition activities for toddlers between the two.
Check Your Emotions
Whether you know this or not, your toddler can pick up on your emotions - even if you aren't outwardly expressing them. So if you're apprehensive about sending them to preschool or you start getting sad as you drop them off, they will react the same. If mom or dad isn't happy about school, your child will assume they shouldn't be either. As difficult as it may be it is important to check your own emotions and ease any anxieties or fears. Try to express excitement and happiness in the mornings before school and during the dropoff.
Be Prepared for Regression
Regression is when your child begins to revert back to old behaviors or developmental stages from when they were younger. You may notice that they are soiling themselves instead of going to the potty, sucking their thumb, wanting assistance with getting dressed or fed, and more. Though it can be annoying at times it is important not to react from a place of frustration, but to instead be prepared.
For a while, it may be best to allow them to feel like the baby when they are home to give them the attention they long for. After some time has passed, start looking for the most effective solutions to help them break these habits. For example, one solution on how to stop thumb sucking is to use the NIPIT hand stopper which is a device that helps to train the toddler to stop sucking their thumb. Going back to training pants instead of underwear may be ideal until they start using the potty again.
Set Up Playdates
Social anxiety is very common in toddlers just entering preschool. Though they desperately want to play with the other children, a lack of social skills and/or the fear of being judged can cripple them causing them to stay to themselves. To help them break out of their social phobia and to get better adjusted to school, it is recommended that you schedule playdates.
Talk to some of the other parents and figure out a day and time where you can allow your children to get together. Start with just one or two children so as not to overwhelm your anxious toddler. Choose an environment that is fun and also comforting for your child. Then, allow them to explore and communicate as they get to know one another. Now, when they return to school, they can find comfort in knowing they already have friends there waiting to greet them.
Seeing your toddler throw a fit every time you drop them off for school can be emotionally taxing. You want nothing more than to swoop in and save the day (even if that means quitting your job or switching from one school to the next). While this can be a difficult transition, parents are advised to stay calm, remain patient, and use tips such as those discussed above to try and make things easier for all involved.
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