Every change is associated with both curiosity and uncertainty. The first day in a new job is an important event and stress source for everyone. In order to settle in a certain environment and feel really at ease, we need to stay in it for at least several weeks – depending on our temperament or previous experiences.
The same applies to children – “small people”, using the terminology of recently passed away Jasper Juul. Although the child adapts much faster than an adult, encountering a new situation will always be a shock for him. The commencement of attending kindergarten is a huge change in a child’s life. Suddenly, everything that was common and familiar is replaced by a new and uncertain. For adults, a kindergarten is something ordinary and insignificant – we all attended, it is possible to survive it. For a child, however, it is something completely different and unknown. So let’s try to put ourselves in his place for a moment.
Parent, help yourself first!
It is the parent’s responsibility to be empathetic about what their child is going through, to guide them in difficult moments and to provide them with the support they need. The fundamental question is how to fulfill this task? How truly help and not cause any damage. Empathy means to sympathize, but not to pity the kid. We should keep our distance, assist them and try to avoid being bewildered feelings. We cannot let the child’s fears become ours. This ability necessary for jobs like a doctor or psychologist, but it is also crucial when being a parent.
Therefore, it is likewise essential to work out our own feelings, not only the kids. If we have decided to send a child to kindergarten – taking into account the welfare of the child and the family’s happiness – we should stick to our decision and not constantly discuss it’s the pros and cons. The child will feel our uncertainty and automatically take over our doubts. If we are the ones who cannot cope with the separation, we should help ourself first so that the child would be able to adapt to the new situation without problems.
At the beginning of tris road, it is worth to realize that leaving a child in kindergarten, is not harmful to him/her but the opposite. This is a natural change necessary for the child’s development. Of course, the kid will have to face new challenges, but this will strengthen his character and accelerate his emotional development. If despite this awareness, our attitude is still anxious, we may wonder if our fears are not the result of a lack of trust in the kindergarten staff. To this end, you can make an appointment to dispel any doubts. It may also be helpful to meet with a psychologist who will guide you through the whole adaptation process.
A few tips to start with
Once we have made a decision and know that we can give sufficient emotional support to our child (which of course does not mean that we cannot be sad or we cannot shed a few tears after leaving the child in the kindergarten for the first few times), it only remains to prepare the child for the new situation. Where to start?
1. Gradually and as naturally as possible introduce the child to the pre-school life. f possible, adjust the child’s day rhythm to the one he or she will experience in the kindergarten and tell the child as much as possible about what and when he or she did during the day spent in the kindergarten (e.g. after breakfast there will be time for games, and after lunch, there will be time for rest). It may also be a good idea to simply play and pretend that you are at a kindergarten.
2. Then we can take care of completing the kindergarten-layette for our kid. We can make the process more pleasant by picking up a special blanket, comfortable slippers or a backpack with the child’s favourite fairy tale hero with our little one. Some people say that it is a good idea to take your beloved mascot or something connected to the child’s home life to the kindergarten. However, it can have a negative impact on the kid, increasing the longing and making it difficult to focus on the “here and now”.
3. It is recommended to take the child to the pre-school before the school year starts to familiarize him/her with the new environment. That is why a few days before the beginning of the school year adaptation classes are organized in many kindergartens. When a child is aware that parents are nearby, it is easier for him/her to play with other kids.
4. Ensure that the child is relatively independent before going to kindergarten, that is, first of all, he/she is able to eat and use the toilet on his/her own (remember, however, that, especially in the first days, various ” accidents ” may take place, so let’s try to talk about it with the child beforehand, and also provide them with comfortable diapers). Above all, it is important to ensure that the child is able to communicate his or her physiological and emotional needs. As we read in Anita Janeczek-Romanowska’s book: “A child who describes what is happening to him/her and seeks support from adults has a good chance that his/her needs will be noticed and perhaps satisfied”.
The most important element of the adaptation process is a sincere conversation between the two parties. Let’s not be afraid that by telling the child about sadness and longing that the child can feel at the beginning, we will evoke these feelings. By discussing these kind of emotions, we increase the chances that they will become normal and will not overwhelm the child. As Agnieszka Stein wrote: “When it is difficult for a child to part with parents, we advise them to try to name the child’s difficult feelings instead of explaining them and encouraging them to part. Besides, let’s be true. It’s not acceptable to artificially fuel the child’s enthusiasm or sadness. It is unacceptable to scare the child by threatening to go to the kindergarten.
Methods helpful in adaptation process
Especially in the first days of adaptation let’s take care of the good atmosphere and calmness in our household. There is nothing worse than hurrying, rushing or raising your voice before leaving the house. If our child has problems with getting up in the morning, we should begin a gradual change of the day’s rhythm, a few weeks before the first day of kindergarten. Let the first weeks of preschool adaptation be associated with peace and security. What else should we remember when the actual adaptation process begins?
1. it is advisable to consider introducing some exceptional morning rituals. You could always play the same song in the morning, prepare meals together or sit down with your whole family and eat breakfast together. It’s also useful to remind your child from the start what morning (and evening) activities he or she needs to perform to improve quickness of leaving home. It’s also a good idea to create a picture guide to show what your child does in the morning.
If possible, try to leave your child in kindergarten for only a few hours during the first few days and then progressively increase the length of stay. According to the principle “better unsatisfied than over-satisfied” it is better to pick up the child when engaged in play than when bored and tired waits until the parents finally come. It is also worth mentioning here how important it is to keep the agreement with the child. if we tell the child that we will come after dinner, it is our duty to keep our word.
3) There are two contradictory approaches when it comes to how to say goodbye to your child. In most cases, psychologists and early school teachers tend to move towards a theory to say goodbye quickly. Before saying goodbye, give your child a lot of tenderness and support, but when you leave the room, say ” Bye, I’ll be there after dinner” and leave. But what if the child struggles, cries, screams and cannot calm down? Can we allow the kindergarten teacher to take them over in such a state? This is where the second tendency comes in, which puts emphasis on the child’s readiness to say goodbye to the parent. The child decides for himself or herself that the parent can already go home. Of course, this type of adaptation requires us to be fully available for some time, but by choosing it we adapt to the possibilities and maturity of our child.
4. Full cooperation between parents and teachers is essential. If your child has any preferences, habits, aversions or fears, the teacher should be informed about it at the beginning in order to spare the child unnecessary stress. We should also talk to the kindergarten teacher about the previous day on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions and make an appointments for individual consultations. Even when everything seems to be all right.
5.But the most important thing is to allow your child to express their feelings. We should not question them (“there is nothing to cry about”), laugh (“a big boy like that crying?”) or bribe the child (“if you stop crying, I’ll buy you an ice cream”). If the child is crying, it means that he or she needs it. Let him cry and just accompany him. Małgorzata Stańczyk writes: “Instead of silencing, encouraging: don’t cry, simply let the tears flow. There is only one important thing: such crying needs to be cared for. It’s not about the child crying and returning to balance on its own.
Completing the adaptation process
The adaptation process usually takes about 6 weeks, but after just 2 weeks you can see significant changes in your child’s attitude and behavior. However, there are exceptional cases when a child is not ready to go to kindergarten – it is simply not the right time for him/her. If the situation does not change and even after the first month, the child becomes hysterical and frightened, and during the day nothing is able to distract him/her, it is worth considering whether to resign from sending him/her to kindergarten (especially if the child is not yet three years old or his/her life has changed recently).
Let us give the child the right to adapt at his or her own pace, let us not accelerate anything, but let us calmly and consistently implement the same scenario every day. The child will finally learn that he or she goes to kindergarten every day, and that every day parents come for them. As Joanna Hudy says: “the process of adaptation must be carried out from beginning to end”. So if there is no such necessity and we are not talking about the situation presented above, it is not worth interrupting this process but peacefully go through it. The more calmness, the faster the effects.