We can't always predict when there will be a change to our schedule, our plans, or our life. But it's important to recognize that pre-schoolers may have a particularly hard time with changes both expected and unexpected. Read below for a few tips on how to set your preschooler up for success.
Time to process.
I find that the best way to prepare preschoolers for the big change is to give them lots of time to process, and to start building a routine before the school year begins. So, if you have a four year old who usually gets up at eight, but now you'll need to be on the way to school at 8 am during the school year, start waking them up at seven every day, and explaining why.
Sleep is so crucial for helping management of emotions, so parents also need to ensure that their kids are going to bed at a regular hour every evening. If your anxious kiddo has trouble staying asleep during the night, make sure to integrate lots of relaxation skills practice.
And for those preschoolers who may have more difficulty or anxiety around transitioning, it may also be helpful to look at providing a midday phone call to them at school, or even stopping by the first few weeks for lunch if their teachers recommend it. If they have a new babysitter, set a time to call or use facetime so that they can see you before sleep, or check in via text with your babysitter to see if that's needed. It may be more helpful some nights than others.
Practicing relaxation and coping skills consistently will go a long way in helping your preschooler manage unexpected changes. And it is crucial that these skills aren't just brought up when your child is already upset. Instead, practice taking deep breaths every night, or do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise each morning before school. Build it in as a habit so that your child can more easily recall these skills, even in the middle of crisis.
If this sounds very familiar, and if transitions are very hard for your child, contact Kelsey for extra tips, or to see if counseling could be the right next step for your family. Kelsey specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids and teens ages 4 through college. Her private practice, Compassionate Counseling St. Louis, is located in Webster Groves. She serves clients in Brentwood, Kirkwood, Town and Country, Creve Couer, and surrounding areas.