Back to School! Helping Your Kids Adjust to a New Preschool (or a First!)

Aug 25, 2023

Starting school, especially at a new location, can be a challenging experience for both kids and parents. Many families move to the suburbs during the summer, and the first day of school can come with added pressures and anxieties. Your child not only finds themselves in a new town and neighborhood but is also away from the familiar surroundings of NYC. They are now stepping into a big new school, surrounded by new potential friends, teachers, and other families.

However, with some preparation in the coming weeks, you can ease this transition into their new school and ensure a smooth start to the year. For starters, focus on helping preschoolers adjust to a new preschool, whether it’s their first time or starting fresh in your new town. Here are some valuable tips and tricks to prepare you and your child for this adjustment to a new preschool, starting right now.

Separation Anxiety is REAL

Even if you’ve got the most social, most outgoing kid on the block, adjusting to a new preschool can be tough, especially in the first few days. Compound that with the other changes in his life—a new town, a house, schedule shifts, new childcare providers—and it’s easy to see why starting school can be tricky.

Acknowledging and addressing separation anxiety is a crucial step in helping your child adjust to preschool or a new school. Start by actively listening to your child’s feelings and encouraging them to express what is upsetting them. It’s essential to maintain stability and consistency in other aspects of their life to create a sense of security. You can also remind them of previous situations where they felt anxious but overcame it, such as conquering a big slide at the playground or learning to swim. This can help them put their current anxiety into perspective.

Keep in mind that children may experience periods of regression with separation anxiety. Just because they had a smooth start on the first day of school doesn’t guarantee the same for tomorrow or next week. Stay vigilant for warning signs of anxiety and be prepared to provide the love and support your child needs to navigate through it.

Don’t Ditch & Dash

Some parents try the “throw them off the deep end” approach to school drop off. For preschoolers adjusting to a new school, this can add even more undue pressure and anxiety to the mix. For preschoolers adjusting to school or to a new school this can add even more undue pressure and anxiety to the mix. Don’t sneak out of the room and, likewise, don’t tell your child you’ll stay put (in the hallway, a nearby bench or classroom, the office) if you aren’t planning to. While this may ease anxiety in the immediate short-term, once she realizes you’re gone it will make tomorrow’s drop off even more difficult.

Visit the Old Neighborhood

It may seem counterintuitive, but visiting your old building, neighborhood or favorite places—a park, restaurant or play space, for example—can ease your child’s suburban transition. Make a play date with old friends immediately following her first week in the new school so she can see that piece of her life won’t go away just because her immediate environment has changed. These familiar connections can make a big difference in adjusting to a new preschool!

Visit Their New School NOW

Consider reaching out to the school and inquire about the possibility of visiting with your child before the official start date. This visit can help familiarize your child with the school environment. Take a leisurely stroll through the school’s halls, point out interesting artwork, and explore fun features. If it’s feasible, drop by to introduce yourselves to your child’s new teacher. Teachers are often available during the weeks leading up to the first day and may be willing to chat briefly with you and your child.

During the visit, take some snapshots of your child at various locations within the school—next to their cubby, outside the classroom, and on the playground. These photos can serve as visual aids to remind your child of their upcoming school adventure and help ease any pre-preschool anxiety they may experience.

The first day of preschool—or in a preschool—is an exciting time for any family. Remember, these tips can help ease the transition to a new preschool and set your child up for a successful school year! Happy back-to-school!

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