This has been a tough one and I profess that I am no expert on the subject. Disturbed by Gavin’s crying episodes and the guilt of abandoning him I decided to ask my cousin who has had the experience of sending two kids to creche to share some the wisdom of her experiences and knowledge with me. This is what she had to share:
Acclimatising to School
There are a few rules of thumb when it comes to helping a toddler acclimatise to school. These are in relation to toddlers only, not school-age children. As with everything, there will be variations based on individual personalities, however, in general, the following factors will make it harder for a toddler to acclimatise to school:
- The older the toddler
- The fewer days a toddler attends preschool, for instance, 2-3 days a week versus 5 days a week
- The longer the break in between the days a toddler is at school, for instance, attending school on Monday and Thursday instead of Monday and Tuesday
Length of Time for Adjustment
As mentioned, there are individual variations. For instance, my cousin’s daughter took 2 weeks to adjust, while her son took 2 months. It seems to be accepted that most toddlers will cry and protest and that the real gauge for whether they are coping or not depends on whether they recover after their parents have left. The fact that Gavin recovers quite quickly after I’ve gone is a good sign that he is adapting well. It is when the toddler does not recover that you should be worried.
Don’t Hang Around
As recommended by Gavin’s school, my cousin also agreed that the best thing to do is drop off your child, and say “goodbye” as brightly as you can. Tell your toddler you’ll be back to pick him up and then leave. Don’t hang around out of sight and don’t turn up unexpectedly because it is confusing to your child if he sees you coming back.
One of the things I tried to do was to use a familiar child to help Gavin acclimatise. The main reason I chose this school was because Gavin’s godbrother and sister are there. Likewise it can sometimes help for your toddler to know that an older sibling is also present at school. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work to your advantage and can have a negative impact on the younger child. Again, I guess this is where individual variation comes in.
Bribes and Loveys
Bribes apparently don’t work, although a lovey can help – that’s if your toddler has one. Gavin doesn’t. I’ve even asked if he wanted to bring his Thomas and Friends trains to school but he doesn’t. However, it did help to pack one of his Thomas and Friend books in his bag to help distract him while he was at school.
The Parent’s Emotion
Children are extremely sensitive to your distress and will pick up on your emotions. If you are distressed, he will be, too. The quicker you learn to deal with your discomfort, the quicker your child will get used to school.
Unfortunately, this is probably easier said than done for me. Being pregnant makes me extra susceptible to emotional displays. I guess the other alternative is to have Daddy send him to school and for me to pick him up.
The Signs of Acceptance
Gavin’s quick recovery after I’m gone is one. The other is the fact that he’s started responding more positively when asked about his day at school. Initially, when asked how school was, he would reply in a negative manner. It then shifted to a non-committal reply. Lately, he’s actually responded by saying it was “good”.
All in all, I guess Gavin is doing better than I had originally feared.