Letting go on the first day
As Early Childhood professionals, we become that first teacher in many children’s lives. For many children, child care or preschool is their first educational experience away from Mom and Dad. The same goes for the child’s parents. We teachers and administrators need to treat this first experience with great tenderness; we have a huge responsibility for setting the tone for many years of education to come. We want this first experience to be positive and give a child and parent a sense of trust, safety and love. Each family is different and unique and we must recognize this and act accordingly.
On the first day of school you will come into contact with some families who are able to drop and go with no issue ... no tears, no worries, a smooth transition by both parent and child. You may have situations where a child is a little weary, yet you are quickly able to intrigue a child with something of interest in your room and soon they are feeling comfortable. You may have a situation where the child is very sad and has a harder time separating from a parent. There are even situations where the parent has a harder time than their child and the parent may linger. With each of these scenarios, it is crucial to build a positive relationship with the parent and child so trust can be built. Having patience during those first weeks is also important; and letting the parents know that you really want school to be a place where the child and the parent looks forward to coming back to everyday.
For years I have given parents advice on how to take that first step of letting go. I stand in the halls with parents as they peek through the door window to make sure their children are ok. I help parents during times when their child cries at drop off ... assuring them that they will be ok. Most children settle in very quickly once mom and dad leave. For some parents, I even encourage and coach them to go and drive the nearest coffee shop and just enjoy a cup of coffee in peace knowing their child is having fun in a loving environment.
Then .. came my day. For me, directing a program is the best job for raising young children. My children have been with me at work since they were infants. I always had them right down the hall from me from age 6 weeks to the time they went off to school. Then came Kindergarten for my first child and there I was ... crying like a baby at that bus stop ... trying to let go, feeling as though a part of me was being taken away. My poor son, he was so embarrassed. The car ride to work felt foreign with just my daughter in the car, but that experience allowed me to empathize with all the parents that I see each and everyday at my center saying goodbye to their children for that first time.
So as the first day of school comes to your center, remember that this is a big step for children as well as parents ... treat it with love and tenderness.
As a side note, my daughter is still with me at my center (she’s 4). I’ll let you know how things go next year when I put her on that Kindergarten bus for the first time. I’m sure I’ll sob once again.