RANTS AND RAVES

To The Mom/Dad of the Newly-Enrolled Toddler

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

easy-breezy mornings when he knows the drill: putting on his uniform, grabbing breakfast,
heading out the door and saying "bye house, see you later!" 
It's been almost a month since little J went back to school and I'm grateful that there are no signs of regression whatsoever. I wanted him to continue attending his toddler classes in spite of the slight challenge in commuting short distances to take him to and from school, mainly so he has something that's his own amidst all the adjustments we'll have to make after the new baby arrives.

Hubby and I agree that he has also shown improvement socially, as well as in verbally expressing himself - a definite feat given that 6 months ago at 2 years old, he wasn't even saying mommy or daddy at all. Now he's a like a myna, labelling each and every thing we point out to him, counting 1-10, identifying majority of the letters and numbers when he sees the figures, and naming colors correctly.

When classes started for this school year, I was both relieved and considerably proud that this little guy walked straight to his teacher, huge bag and all, and calmly said "bye Mommy, see you later" (in his bulol way :P) as he took his teacher's hand to go to his classroom. I saw a lot of new kids whose parents had anxious faces, trying to soothe their panicky toddlers who were clinging to them for dear life and recognized that exact same facial expression I had last year. All I wanted to do was give them a friendly smile and say, "They're going to be okay."

last school year, when he would start hugging me
profusely as soon as he realized we were
nearing the school
If you're a parent second-guessing yourself at this point after having your child ripped (OA?!) from your arms day after day to go to class, I feel you. I know how it can get confusing, heartbreaking, or frustrating especially if yours is the kid who takes longer than the others to adjust to new surroundings (mine took around 2 months). Through observation, a degree in psychology, based on personal experience, and after talking to other "veteran" parents and teachers, I hope these will help ease your worries in some way, at least:

1) It generally takes longer for the kids to adjust if you linger longer. This is why, some schools implement a "no-guardian inside the classroom" policy as early as the 2nd day of classes. When they are starting with school, you're introducing them to a new environment, new people, and new activities. None of it is familiar, and this is what scares them most as toddlers and young preschoolers aren't keen on new routine because their sense of certainty depends on the daily schedule that they are already familiar with. You don't have to go cold turkey and just leave them in a snap, but by staying with them the whole time, you may be showing them that they cannot trust this new place that you're taking them to.

First day Tips: 
- When you first take them to the classroom, show them how exciting it is, they will eventually pick up from your vibe that this is a happy place. 
- Be friendly with the teacher - toddlers are very perceptive, they will sense if you yourself are hesitant to leave them with this person. 
- Do not be pushy and shove them the toys or manipulatives as this can overwhelm them - allow them to take to take it all in at a gradual pace. 
- Do not sneak out - having you disappear the moment they are in the classroom will make their anxiety worse.
- The moment they slowly warm up to other kids, an activity, or the teacher, say goodbye properly. There will be waterworks, but don't let it get to you - it will only teach them that they can get you to stay or turn back each time they cry.



2) You can trust the teacher. A good way to put yourself at ease is by scheduling sit-ins, which most preschools accommodate especially for first time enrollees. This way, you can observe how the teacher handles the class as a group and how she pays attention to each individual child. Granted, some may put their best foot forward only because you're there, but I think you'd have to have your gut feel guide you on that. If you don't like how the teacher/s deal/s with the students, find another school that you will be comfortable with - each school adheres to different principles and methods of teaching, it is imperative that you enroll your child in one that suits your goals. Keep in mind that you are leaving your tot with this person for hours a day so you MUST be sure you completely trust that she will care for child properly.



3) Don't over analyze. One of the common stressors at the back of your mind when you leave your child crying out for you is that, it feels like you're abandoning him or her - admit it! In turn, you're worried he or she will be scarred by the memory of you walking away, etc. etc. DON'T. At a very young age, toddlers do not have the capacity to analyze on that depth yet. They are merely unsure of what's going to happen, but they don't associate it with abandonment issues. It's only you who's thinking that way, putting yourself in their shoes with the adult mentality that you already have. Remember, it is a good thing for children to experience minor stress once in a while because it helps them build their coping mechanisms. So don't worry, they will eventually get that after so and so hours, daddy or mommy ALWAYS comes back.

When you think something's off...
- Don't hesitate to talk with the teacher or school administrator; let them know if there are major behavioral changes in your child so they are aware and try to help, or let them clarify if these are to be expected or otherwise
- While extra clinginess may be expected during the adjustment period, do seek professional advice if your child begins to experience radical behavior changes such as constant night terrors, loss of appetite, aggressive behavior or anything you know for a fact is too extreme for your child

There's no easy way to deal with it, but once you've decided it's time to send your child to school, you just have to soldier on and know that they will eventually settle into the new routine. Take comfort in knowing that they are in good hands, and that they are broadening their social circle while learning along the way.

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