I strapped my daughter in her carseat, with her princess backpack by her side and we drove her to preschool. I caught a glimpse of her in the rear-view mirror grinning with pride at the thought she was about to embark on her very first day of preschool. Walking through the parking lot, I could feel five little fingers grab mine as we walked between the cars along the path to school. My heart melted. Once inside the classroom, we washed our hands and prepared ourselves in the bathroom for the big day. Kneeling eye-level I wished my sweet daughter well wishes for the day, as I watched two big blue eyes swell with tears. As I gave her a big hug, I could feel one of the teachers pull her away from me and gave me the eye letting me know it was time for me to go. I stood up, turned to the door, and felt gravity take my heart to the ground. I was limp, numb, speechless and on the brink of tears as I walked out of the building. All I wanted to do is turn around and pick her up and take her home. I pulled myself together enough to make it back to my car and drove my lifeless self to work. A part of me was still in that classroom.
Once at work, I was fortunately swamped with meetings which took my mind off the traumatic events from the morning all the while checking the clock constantly and waiting impatiently until the twelve o’clock pick up time. At eleven-thirty I drove back to the school eager to see my baby girl again. As soon as I opened the door to the classroom, those sweet blue eyes connected with mine, and we embraced for one of the biggest, tearful hugs I ever had. And this was my daughters first day of preschool.
We are still having tearful moments during this transition, but better every day. Some people told me that day would be difficult, but I had no idea how difficult it was for me.
I know there a lot of parents out there that struggle with this separation, and I would like to know: How do you cope with this? Did you have the same separation reaction I did? When does the separation anxiety end and what if it doesn’t?
The first day of preschool is never easy, but here are some tips that I have found that make it easier to cope with the preschool transition:
1.) Get ready for school early - This is easier said than done, I know! But not rushing breakfast and brushing teeth helps with the morning transition.
2.) Prepare the night before – If you have a preschooler then you can relate to the strong negotiation your child gives on their outfits and dressing routine. I find it makes the morning less stressful, when we pick out her outfit the night before together and lay it out for the morning. It is also important to have the backpack ready to go the night before, too.
3.) Bring a favorite toy – This one saved me recently! My daughter was crying because she didn’t want to go to school, but once we invited “Hoppy” the stuffed bunny to go with us, we were good to go.
4.) Make the goodbye loving but short – This one is hard for me, because a lot of schools encourage that the parents say their good byes, and leave, rather than linger around the classroom. But, I know it is best for both of us to make this transition quick and not drawn out.
5.) Encourage them- I have found if I really pump her up before school she becomes confident and forgets how much she fears going to school. I am all about, “You did it!” and “You must be so proud of yourself!”