In the life of a new parent, every milestone is daunting. We are eager, enthusiastic and extremely invested in every new chapter of our little one’s life. The first smile, the first time they roll over and that first tooth, each of these events is a cause for joy. The first two beautiful years go by, wherein we try to do our best for our children, always standing by their side, and then comes Preschool. The life event that launches our children into the “real world” As a parent myself, I’ve experienced all kinds of anxiety, fear and confusion in the first two years of my child's life, but the bittersweet experience of sending them to school is incomparable. It is a strange mix of wanting to see your child independently wade in the waters while something crumbles deep inside, for they will not need us as much as they did before. On the brighter side, when the clouds of emotion dissipate, we rejoice thinking of the few hours of freedom that come with it. All in all an exciting time for parents and children alike.
As my little girl stepped out that Monday morning. Dressed, excited and not a care in the world. I silently prayed for her experience to build that attitude of complete abandon and hoped that the harder challenges would not break her spirit. I wanted her to have the best memory of the day whatever she may remember of it, but then the realization dawned over me, this was the end of my child’s carefully tailored life. I was no longer going to be able to control her experiences. She would meet all kinds of personalities and it was now time for her to react to them as she saw fit. I was finally sending her out into the world of “the others” away from the comfort of family, so she could realize her true personality and really experience her own peer group.
Like all parents, I too wanted her to be prepared for this massive change in her life and I wanted it to be as positive as possible. We started preparing for this day because lets be honest here, the pandemic may have taught us a lot of things, but it sure made us lazy as well. We were approaching a life of routine and discipline, while we lay lazily at the other end where there were no schedules and no sense of social outings. Preschool is challenging as it is, add to that children who have hardly been out of their homes in their 2.5 years of life. A recipe for disaster. We had to start preparing and we had to do it gradually, a couple of weeks leading to her first day. We did the following things that seemed to take the pressure of the first day and ease her into the new phase.
1.We began talking about School- We introduced the concept of school to our child. We made up scenarios, where we told her how much fun it would be for her to go to school and meet her friends and teachers.
2.We took a trip to the school - We took her with us to take a tour of the school before we enrolled her. We took her around the slides and also one of the classes. A small way to get a little bit of the unknown out of the big day.
3.We stayed put on our Toilet Training journey - We were already on our toilet training journey, we just had to keep at it. While also starting to tell the child that someone at school will assist her when she needs to go. And if she did have an accident, it would be completely okay.
4.Sleep-Wake Schedule- This is something, we really had to work at. We started getting the child to bed at the same time every night and at the same time to rise. This was an essential step toward ensuring that she would be well-rested and happy in the morning. A tired, sleepy child is a thing of nightmares outside a school, bawling his/her eyes out.
5.We started to have a conversation about the new routine- We made school a part of our everyday conversations. We would ask our child how she felt about it if she was excited about it. We just let her share her feelings, without any input. Just so she could feel heard and this, we hoped, would lead her to trust us, when we assured her, we would be waiting right outside to pick her up.
6.Shopping for School- Lastly, we went to the mall to buy her school bag. We let her choose her school bag and bottle. I could see that it helped build her excitement for school.
7.Prepared Ourselves- Last and definitely not the least important, we prepared ourselves. We as parents, unknowingly pass on our insecurities to our children. We remained positive and confident. (successfully masking our anxiety) to ease our children.
Children are stronger and braver than we give them credit for, not all children are the same and every child will definitely find their rhythm, albeit at their own pace. Now that the first week of school has gone by. I do think it was a wise call to prepare for it. My daughter is happy to go to school, although not every day is easy, and she is still just a child who feels safest next to her mother/father. She will gradually accept the independence and soon enough be rebelling for more and more of it, but until then I am happy to let her hold my hand, just a little longer and cling on for that last two minutes. I want to send her out and be brave, but again, Rome was not built in a day! There is more than enough time to be fearless.
Contributed by: Sukhmani Gill. She’s a psychology major, HR professional, a mother of two and now trying her hand at writing.