First Day of School…Ever: The Toils of Preschool Jitters


As I typically do on this confession, try to stifle the laughter: currently, I am serving as my daughter’s preschool parent committee president.

Say that 10 times fast.

As with learning any new role, the best and worst of issues and concerns present themselves pretty quickly.  One issue that has come up recently, due to the time of year, is first day of school protocols and what to expect.

The dreaded first day of “drop off your 2.5 year old and see what happens” is like letting loose a wild boar in Tiffany’s.  It’s gonna get ugly.

The key is: don’t stick around.

Yes, this goes against any parental instinct you might have.  You might want to come in, hang out, see what’s going on, comfort your child, and convince them how much fun this is even while they’re clamped onto your leg like a spider monkey and screaming like a banshee.

Here’s what you need to remember:

  1. These early drop-offs are harder for you than it is for them.
  2. Your child is not the first child in history to scream, hyperventilate, and tantrum on the first day of school.
  3. The teachers have been doing this for years.  They are not phased by this behavior.  It’s what they studied in college and signed up for.  Let them do their jobs.
  4. Your child will most likely be fine and playing happily approximately 5-15 minutes after you leave because…
  5. You are most likely the ‘trigger’ at this juncture.  Normally the pillar of strength, you’re now the weak link.  Get out as soon as possible.
  6. If all else fails: Distract and Eject!  Tell your toddler to go play with some object across the room and that you’ll stand there (right next to the door) and watch.  As soon as the toddler is distracted, sneak out like the stealth ninja you were meant to be.

The school has your phone number and, in the minute chance your child is truly inconsolable, they will call you.

It is good to set up a quick routine upon arrival.  Help take your child’s coat off and hang it up with them.  Show them how to put their lunch and/or backpack in their assigned cubby.  Give them a hug and kiss.  Tell them to have a great day.  Exit.  Bam!  Done!  This will become Pavlovian and soon they’ll do the coats, cubbies, hug, kiss, ‘Bye!’ as they run off to play with their new friends.  When this happens try not to take it personally.  This is what you’re supposed to do as a parent: teach them socialization and independence.

At pick-up, you’ll see that your sweet little angel has survived.  You’ll probably even get to sneak a peak at them enjoying themselves before they see you at the door and possibly start crying again.  Don’t buy it.  Their first week or so might be a little bumpy, but keep reminding them how much fun they had, and continue to encourage them to have fun.

Even if you’re internally crumbling.

Be strong.  Don’t let the wee ones see you sweat or they’ll know they have you right where they want you.  Vulnerable and ready to swoop in and take them home.  Instead, be that pillar of strength.  Quickly comfort and reassure them.  Leave with an encouraging smile on your face.  Then run around the block or get in your car and cry your eyes out.

Don’t worry.  You’ll survive, too.


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