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By Dr. Heather
When my first child started preschool, I dreaded it for weeks. Would she cry? What if she needed me? As a parenting psychologist, I knew that my child was developmentally ready for preschool. But the parent in me was nervous. With the help of a fantastic teacher, the actual experience was a lot easier than I anticipated.
Parents are usually far more traumatized than their children when saying goodbye. Having a child is a 24-hour-a-day, overwhelming responsibility. Handing that responsibility over to a teacher can be difficult — but it’s also an important milestone in the growth of your child (and your growth as a parent).
It’s important to know that when your child cries at separations, it shows a healthy attachment to you. That’s a good thing. Leaving a crying child doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making the wrong decision, and won’t be “traumatizing” for most children. Most children protest for a few minutes, and then settle in nicely with their class activities.
Now that I’ve lived through it a few times, I’ve found some things that help make those goodbyes better:
Your child’s adjustment over a period of weeks is your best barometer of how she’s doing. And don’t be surprised if she starts out the school year easily — but then protests going to school later on. Take her fears seriously, be reassuring, and then build her confidence again by getting back into the classroom. Stay in close touch with the teacher to gain insights and updates about your child’s adjustment.
Your child’s adjustment to preschool is an important milestone. Independence, social skills and learning all thrive in preschool. Your “goodbye” can mean “hello” to wonderful new experiences for your child!