The time of transition (and there will be many throughout your child’s life) is exciting, evocative, scary, sad… overwhelming. It is also a time ripe with opportunities for creating confidence, autonomy, and healthy self -esteem in your child.
Your baby has gone through many stages, from early infancy, a time often known as the fourth trimester, to now. Each has included varying trials of autonomy, from “How far away can I crawl?” to “Can I pull myself up?” to “I am not ready to go to bed yet, so I’m not going to.” Giving them a new world to explore, on their own, and the gift of a successful separation is a huge confidence booster. It also allows them to start to see themselves as a whole person. ALSO, the early years with your baby can be pretty cocooning and this time of transition can mark an emergence for you both. Your child is having a life that involves friends, and activities, and foods, and feelings that you don’t know everything about. You, too, can begin to experience yourself as a separate person again.
The most important thing to think about is how you are communicating to your child and helping them to manage their feelings.
How we talk about transition is so important.
Allowing that there are going to be myriad feelings and not getting stuck on one (fear), is step one. Yes, it is scary, and also it can be fun, exciting, rewarding. You are the best translator/narrator for your child, so in shaping this story for her try to remember all of the possibilities. Notice, at a play date or class, when your little one is playing independently from you and remark on it. “Stella, you played so nicely with Tabitha. What were you two doing? She’s going to be in your class at school!”
For parents, sometimes one of the most difficult tasks is to separate your complicated feelings from those of your child
Many times parents feel guilty or sad- (I’m forcing my baby to do this thing that obviously terrifies him). The problem is, your little one is intuitively connected to you and will feel your guilt as if it is his own. Now, going to school and having fun without mom or dad becomes wrong. They don’t ever want to hurt you, and if they perceive that leaving you hurts you, they will fight like hell to not do it. As above, by narrating a complete story, you can set a framework for your child to learn to balance feelings. “Jacob, I am so happy that you are getting big and going to school! I’m going to miss you in the morning, but I can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures when I pick you up!”
Other, more concrete tips:
- Plan play-dates with children they will see in class
- Mark off a calendar leading up to the exciting first day of school.
- Shop together with your little one for pre-school supplies, snacks, etc.
- Have a special “big kid” snack that they can look forward to having once they are in preschool.
- Meet the teacher if possible. If not, see if you can get a picture of your teacher to put on the fridge or your countdown calendar.
- Read a book about going to preschool, or create your own book together. This can include some of your happy preschool memories, which you can share with your little one as you both prepare to take this big step.
- Take care of you. Make sure you have an adult to process your fear, sadness, or other difficult feelings with so you can be attentive to what your little one is experiencing.
My next post will have helpful information to make the first day or days go more smoothly.