The sight of a screaming toddler at preschool drop-off is as common as paint stained hands at pickup. But when it’s you and your child, this seemingly benign experience takes on a whole new meaning. For most kids, separation anxiety ends when they realise that mum or dad will return at the end of the day. But getting to this point can be a prickly pear. Here are three tips to help manage the transition.
#1 It’s normal – and, in fact, a good sign.
Sure, some toddlers happily bounce into preschool on the first day, but for most children, this isn’t the case. When a young child displays uneasiness about leaving a parent, it is psychologically regarded as a normal and healthy reaction. So, while your heartstrings may be pulled to the brink, remind yourself that your child’s tears are in line with this stage of development.
#2 Find a school that offers support.
A once-in-a-lifetime event for your family is, in fact, par for the course for most schools, who are likely welcoming new students on a weekly basis. As such, it’s easy for schools to become blasé about this rite of passage.
Stamford American International School’s programme teacher Nurulhana Abdul Latif says SAIS supports families through this time with an officially recognised settling-in period. “Meaningful planning and time is invested into this period,” she says. Before a child’s first day of Infant Care, for example, parents fill out forms so teachers understand a child’s home routine, preferences and interests. Every child who starts school in SAIS’s Infant Care Programme is assigned a main caregiver. This caregiver follows and understands the child’s routine and maintains a close relationship with the parents during the settling in process, which often lasts for a few weeks. Photos and details about a child’s day are communicated daily to parents
#3 Be part of the process.
Some schools feel parents hinder children’s adjustment to a new environment, while others believe parents are an integral part of the process. If it’s important to you to be involved, find a school that allows parents to be involved. According to Nurulhana, SAIS believes emotional security is key to the settling process and that this security is best achieved through a joint partnership between parents and the school.
On the first day of school, parents are asked to spend a day at the centre to help their child adjust. Settling periods vary for children, but having mum and dad around on that first day allows a child to slowly adapt to the new environment, while connecting home life to their new world.
On subsequent days, parents can gradually decrease their time until a child feels comfortable enough to stay at school alone. “We have an open-door policy at Infant Care, meaning families are welcome to come and go as they please,” says Nurulhana.
“Above all else,” she adds, “our focus is on building relationships with the children and being in tune with their unique needs and routines.”
What Parents Say
“Elisha settled in so well when she arrived at five months old, much to the efforts of all her teachers. SAIS’s wonderful environment coupled with a dedicated team of infant care teachers gives Elisha the perfect condition to grow up. I have heartfelt appreciation for all the love and care showered on our little angel.” – Joshua (father)
The Infant Care Programme is available at both SAIS and the Australian International School for babies aged two to eighteen months, from 8am to 6pm.
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