September is always an exciting time for children and parents starting preschool. Along with all the fun associated with new surroundings, new friends, new adults in the child’s life, comes the anxiety about parent and child separating from one another. It’s a very emotional time for parents to leave their child but can be equally scary for some children. This is especially true for children whose first language is not English or for a child with special needs who has not been separated from their parents before. Here are some strategies that we have used to ease the transitions for children, parents and educators.
1. Prior to starting in the program, hold an open house for children enrolled in the group and their parents so that they may meet the other children, parents and educators. Plan your open house so it happens when your centre is in operation. This will provide an opportunity for everyone to experience a preschool day.
2. Conduct an intake interview with a parent prior to the child starting. This will allow you to gather information about the child’s likes (favorite toys, activities and interests), dislikes (picky eater, loud noises), strengths (very social, gross motor skills) and needs (help with dressing and toileting). You will have the opportunity to ask if this is the first time they have been separated from their child and what would be the best way to comfort the child should they be upset (the child likes to be held or not).
3. If your budget allows, install a two way mirror that permits the parents to observe their child without the child seeing them. This is a great comfort to the parents.
4. Develop a goodbye ritual such as waving goodbye, hi-five, kiss and hug. We have found that having the children actually see their parents leave is helpful. Before leaving parents should let their child know how their day will unfold using a first/then statement. “First play, then home”. Always let your child know you will pick them up. It is important for the parents to be consistent with the goodbye ritual so that the child will have a point of reference and feel secure each time they attend the preschool.
5. Additional adults in the program such as the Preschool Director could help the educators as they comfort the children. With the guidance and support of an educator, children will gradually move from just peering at others play to integrating into the play space.
6. Always communicate with parents to let them know the reasons behind the strategies you are using.
We hope that some of these ideas will work for you. Always keep in mind that the parents and the preschool teaching team work collaboratively with the child’s best interest in mind.
Jo-Anne McCrone, Preschool Director
Community Cooperative Preschool