You knew this would happen. You were prepared for it. All along while you had paid the deposit and bought the new stationary you were expecting a few tears from your little one on his first few days of pre-school. Why then, when you left him this morning with tears brimming in his eyes, perhaps even clinging to your shirt or screaming as you left did you feel so incredibly guilty? So uneasy? Wondering whether you were doing the right thing and whether you shouldn’t perhaps wait another year before you send him?
As parents we spend the majority of our time nurturing and protecting our little ones and it seems so completely unnatural to leave them in an environment where we fear they might be unhappy. But the situation is completely normal.
I worked as a nursery school teacher for five years while I completed my psychology studies and can assure you that all children cry when they first start school, no matter at which age they start. Children usually start craving the company of other children when they are about 2 and a half to 3 years of age – but some might be ready for the socialisation at an even earlier age.
It has been my experience that the later children start pre-school (after 4 years) the more they cry and the more traumatic the change. Also, the socialisation aspect is very important. Generally, the later children start school the more they battle to get on with other children and this usually leads to them being rejected by their classmates, which in turn leads to a very unhappy school experience.
They also cry most when their parents leave them, but I can assure you that most children are completely settled less than an hour after they’ve been dropped off.
The fact that your child cries is in fact a great sign. It means that he has formed a secure attachment to you. His time at school will now lead him to further develop that attachment through learning that you will always leave him in safe hands and that you always return for him. This will give him the courage to explore his environment and later in life, to go out into the great wide world and face it head on, always knowing that he has a secure base.
So what now? You still feel uneasy and are worried that you might be pushing your child to start school too early?
My advise would be to try and stick it out until at least the end of the first term – he should have started settling into school by then. If you have not seen a significant improvement by then, you can reassess the situation and decide whether you want to wait till next year to send him. Also remember that your little one will pick up on your anxiety and will interpret your resistance to leave him as a sign that the school environment might pose a threat.
- Prepare your child for school each night as you put him to bed and talk in positive terms about the fun things he will be doing each day and the new friends he will make.
- Try not to prolong the goodbyes when you drop him off in the morning.
- Reassure him that you will be back at lunch time to fetch him and remember to leave smiling (even if you then bawl your eyes out later in the car park).
- If you still find this too difficult, perhaps ask his father or a good friend to drop him at school for the first few weeks.
Best of luck with this! It is very difficult, but the uneasy feeling will pass and soon your little one will be crying that you’re fetching him from school too early!