Starting preschool can be an exciting and nerve-racking experience and we have put together these ideas to help you and your child with the change to their routine if you think your child will be or does become anxious.
Some books to read:
I’m too absolutely small for school. Lauren Child
Starting school. Janet Ahlberg
How do dinosaurs go to school? Jane Yolen
Maybe use the word Playgroup or Preschool when discussing this first experience as then you can save school for school!
Questions to ask while reading the books.
Were the children always happy?
Were the children always scared?
What did the adults or someone else do to make them feel better?
What did the other children do?
When you feel ------- what helps you to feel better?
Some emotions to discuss:
Happiness, Excitement, Nervousness, Fear, Sadness.
Share your own experience of going to school, but, be mindful that if you were upset, then to share how you were comforted etc (don’t share if you were traumatised and still haven’t got over it!)
Connection to the body:
When we are feeling an emotion, we can (with practice as an adult) notice the effect it is having on our body. Remember feeling butterflies in your tummy when you are nervous. Because the body is in the present moment, it can be more manageable to stay with the physical sensations than get carried away by the overwhelming thoughts. In addition, we can get used to showing a kindness towards ourselves by placing a comforting hand on our tight throat, empty chest or fluttering tummy.
Children can be taught to notice these sensations from an early age and to show some kindness to themselves also. Tears are a sign that sadness is present. A smile that joy is here. And so on. We can learn to be aware of these physical reactions and sometimes they can be an early warning system to look after ourselves. Tight shoulders showing we are tense. If we have been ignoring our bodies for a long time, then this takes practice!!!
Ask your child what can we do to help you feel better when you are going into Preschool?
Make a plan that is achievable and stick to it!! (see below)
Remember that your child may be feeling positive emotions about preschool so you can explore these as well. I can see that you are happy and excited, you are smiling and jumping about!!
It might be you who needs to take care of yourself, if it is you who is feeling anxious, sad, scared etc
What to bring:
Comfort object if you think that is necessary.
Breath to use:
A good way to calm down nervous feelings is to take deep breaths deep down into the lower part of the lungs. You can practise this with your child using the balloon breath described below.
They can then do this at any time even standing in the playground or in the car before coming into the building.
Find a supportive seat for your child, and encourage them to sit up as straight as they can.
Guide your child to:
Put both their hands on their tummy.
Then keep their mouth closed and take a slow breath in through their nose.
Tell your child to imagine, as they breathe in, that there is a balloon in their belly and they are trying to fill it up with air.
Encourage your child to keep breathing in until they think the balloon in their tummy has enough air inside. Don’t encourage your child to breathe in too much as they may then find it hard to stay relaxed.
Your child should be feeling their hands on their tummy are moving outwards – point this out to them.
When your child feels their ‘belly balloon’ is full of air encourage them to imagine they have let go of the balloon and the air is rushing out!
Guide your child to breathe out slowly through their mouth (with pursed lips). They should feel that their hands & belly button are coming back towards their spine. Guide your child to do 4 or 5 breaths like this and then to breathe normally.
Our plan for saying good- bye!
Ask your child what they would like but here are some ideas.
I will hold your hand on the way into the building
I will tell you where I am going while you are in Preschool
I will give you a hug
I will give you a kiss
I will say good- bye.
I will let you walk into the classroom.
If I am feeling sad, I would like the leader to …………………………………………………………….
My plan for saying hello!
Make a plan for this too if you would like to.