Preschool “Phase-in”: Sometimes You Have to Pull Off the BandAid
September 15, 2009 · Posted in Education, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink

bandaidIf you have a child who is starting preschool, chances are you’re involved with the dreaded “phase-in”. If you are lucky, you are the parent sighing with relief, watching your “well adjusted” child easily transition to school.  If not, you are the parent in a sweaty state of horror and embarrassment as your child hangs onto your leg whimpering and the words “separation issues” keeps playing over in your mind.

Of course we all want our children to get acclimated to a new setting. No one thinks it would be a good thing to just drop them and go –leaving them to sink or swim. But neither is it necessary to turn the beginning of preschool into a logistical nightmare with weeks of coming to school for 20 minutes a day. Nor do you have to be held hostage for months until your child feels “safe” enough to let you go.

Let’s think about it from the three year old’s perspective.  Your “grown up” is sitting on a toddler size chair, reading a magazine and stonewalling you when you run over to show them something or to sit in their lap. Weird. If a child is having a hard time saying goodbye, why would they get fully involved with new adults, activities and peers while you are sitting there. Young children cannot picture the future like we do – they need to experience things and then remember them. Therefore, until kids have lived through the experience of being in class, surviving the tortuous goodbye, being comforted by a teacher, calming down and having fun, they cannot imagine being there and feeling ok without you.

Of course, each school has it’s own “separation policy” and you should follow that to start. But if you are sitting in the classroom for more than two weeks and you have not been “released”, suggest to the teachers that you come in the morning a little early, have a short and sweet goodbye and see how things go after a few days.  It is a very typical part of growing up to be worried and clingy at the beginning of school–if we normalize it a bit and make it a little less precious, parents and kids will get off to a better start of the school year.

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  1. Liz
    September 15th, 2009 | 12:02 pm

    My older sister is currently ‘phasing in’ with her son – I think she will find this insight very helpful – thanks.

  2. Elissa
    September 16th, 2009 | 3:41 pm

    I am a preschool teacher and the policy at our school is a very slow phase period where kids come in 30 minutes a day with small groups of 5 children the first month. Then we mix the whole class for 3 hours a day for two weeks and then get up to full speed at about 6 weeks. Some kids are fine with it-some have a hard time. I have wanted to tell some parents to leave but it would be going against our policy. I think it is a good time to tweak the phase in!

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