In fact, he coped better than I did after 2+ years of being together (almost) 24/7. In their first week newsletter update, his teachers were clearly pleased with his progress - and probably relieved too!
Once we decided on "where", I spoke to a few friends, read Elizabeth Pantley's The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution and Stormie Omartian's The Power of a Praying Parent to prepare for "how" and "what if". Here's stuff I didn't know or fully appreciate until B started:
1) Visit with your child as often as possible before class starts, taking photos to recall. I made memories by adding little pages for his journal which worked better than any "going to preschool" kid book because they were real, some with pictures of him in them! When day 1 came along, B was familiar with the names and images of his school, class and teachers. Ideally, we'd have loved to accompany him to playgroups at school or with his classmates beforehand, but we didn't have this option.
2) If possible, ask to be the only new child in the class, say for a 2 week period, and avoid starting after a long holiday as many "experienced" kids still get separation anxiety on the first day back. This ensures sufficient attention and no peer crying effect which stresses out everyone around. A fellow mom friend shared how 5 kids in her child's class (different school) cried for almost 3 hours until they vomited. Teachers were quite overwhelmed and parents clearly distressed!
3) Crying at drop off is normal. Crying at pick up is also normal. BUT it doesn't mean your child has been crying all day! The tears usually stop once teachers are given a chance to take over, distract and calm down your child. By mid-week, B cried for less than a minute at drop off and pick up and after that, he was all smiles, no tears. The key here is to TRUST, reflect a positive mood and (the toughest part) LEAVE. I hung B's water bottle around his neck which also ensured he was hydrated, and always had a towel ready, i.e. his comfort object since he was an infant. I had my doubts too at the beginning as I wandered around waiting for the call or tears which never came thankfully, all the while trying to spy in while not letting them see me. Eventually, I told myself to let go. Let others get to know and take care of him. Grant them your trust and allow them to keep earning yours and his. Also, enjoy the well-deserved morning off, mama!
4) It can feel like your child's regressing. B was koala bear clingy over the weekend (we started on a Thursday) and had disrupted naps because he'd catnap in the car on the way back and not nap enough once home, or would wake up crying for me and wouldn't go back to sleep without me holding him. Over the weekend, I reflected and determined to not be hasty - all of this eventually resolved or would resolve. And B would also continue to grow in character, knowledge and imagination. I just need to remember to project love for him, encourage interest in school and model respect for his teachers. Believe he will thrive!
5) Release your child into God's hands. To quote Omartian: "We can't be everywhere. We can't see everything. We can't know everything. But God can. Acknowledge our Father is in control of our children's lives and ours, and we will have greater peace." Amen!
Of course, I miss B everytime he's in school and am trying to maximise our remaining time together with bonding and NOT mere enrichment - begone you tiger mom urges! Meanwhile, I'm enjoying this extra time for devotionals, pilates, The Whiz Times, books, brekkie/brunch catch-ups until my schedule changes again :)
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