The Separation Process for Pre-School Doesn't Have to Be Brutal

transition to pre-schoolOkay, there might be some tears. But if you go about transitioning your toddler to pre-school, or to another caregiver with some basic ideas in mind, it shouldn't be as painful. Which was my takeaway from a talk by Carol Bovill, the director of the Early Childhood Centers of Wilshire Boulevard Temple on the topic of separation and attachment. Speaking to a room of parents hoping for a smooth transition as our toddlers started pre-school, Bovill shared with us that we should be focusing on the attachment of our kids to new caregivers, rather than the word "separation." Either way, there were some anxious parents in there, and we all had questions. Like, "Why is my son hitting everyone?" Or, "When will the crying stop?" 

Luckily Bovill is a professional, and used to dealing with neurotic parents of toddlers. She had some fantastic points for us to remember so our little ones can have a successful move from the home to a new school. In spite of our collective anxiety.



Your Child is Capable

The overreaching theme of the day was to trust in our children. If we, as parents, and the caregivers work under the assumption that our children are competent, they will be. Bovill explained our kids will tell us what they need, and how they feel. Children may have different languages, but we simply need to listen and all will be revealed. Instead of assuming your child loves (or hates) going to school and making friends, ask her about how she feels, and what she thinks. Let her tell you how she's doing, instead of you trying to decide on your own. Some kids show their excitement by being in a new school by not napping anymore, and some by regressing in toilet training. Either way, they're telling you something. Be ready to watch, listen, and learn.

Honor Your Child

Whether you have an outgoing child, or a shy one, you have to honor her personality. By showing her she is okay no matter whether she jumps in the middle of the group playing blocks, or sits in the corner with a book, you are building your child's self-esteem. Sometimes it may be hard when you really want certain behavior to change, but as Bovill said, by allowing your child to be himself you're laying the foundation for a happy, confident, and secure person.

Appreciate Attachments

After spilling the story of her own issues with jealously with an au pair she fired for being too close to her first child, Bovill acknowledged that parents can feel threatened by another caretaker. Especially if your child grows to love that person. Instead of looking at the caregiver as a replacement (which she totally isn't, your child knows the difference), be happy that you have a secure child who can form attachments of all kinds.

Bring a Comfort Item from Home

Working under the assumption that your child is capable, ask her what she has at home that might make her feel good to also bring to school. Chances are she's got a lovey, a book, or a toy that will do that trick. But also explain to her that other children may want to take a turn if it's something like the greatest toddler toy of all time. If she's not comfortable with that, then let her know she'll need to either leave in the car, or in the cubby. Let her make that choice and don't tell her that she can't bring something in because someone will take it from her. She'll have a greater understanding as she comes to her own conclusions.

Understand the Tantrum

As Bovill pointed out before, your child will react, regress, or otherwise show you that he knows something different is happening. One good old-fashioned way of communicating, is the tantrum. But if you can break it down, you can help prevent it from happening, while making your toddler feel comfortable, and confident. When your child is having a tantrum, he's trying to get attention because he wants something that he's not getting. Sometimes, that tantrum goes off the deep end (especially in the case of toddlers) and said toddler doesn't even remember why he's hysterical. The best way to address your kid throwing a wobbly is to first ask what he wants. If it's say, a car someone else has at the moment you simply say, "David is playing with that car. Your turn is next." Not happy? Repeat what he wants, "You want the car? You're upset because you can't have the car?" If it's something as easy as taking turns (hahaha - I said that was easy!) the tantrum can stop once the object is obtained. If it's something like, "I want to go to my grandmother's house that's 5,000 miles away," you calmly explain that we can't do that right now, so what else would you want to do instead? The key here is staying calm, acknowledging their issue, and finding a solution. If the tantrum has gone past the point of discussion, holding your toddler close to you and soothing him is the best way to chill a kid out.

Wow, don't you feel better now?

How did you transition your toddler into pre-school?


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