Young children go through many, sometimes challenging, developmental phases. Magination Press’s Big Little Talks series by Alberto Pellai, MD, PhD, and Barbara Tamborini, provide fun stories to ease both parents and children through typical and common life stages using empathic listening and encouraging an understanding of age-appropriate behavior and emotions. For many kids, starting school is the first time they are separated from their attachment figures—the people who have cared for them for the first few years of their life (parents, grandparents, nannies, etc.) The start of preschool almost always involves a phase of crisis. Some children may break down on the first day of school and refuse to let their attachment figure leave. Others run off to explore, immediately at ease, and say goodbye to attachment figures as if they are dismissing them. Then weeks later, they refuse to go, seemingly out of nowhere. It's as if they are done exploring and now want to return to their previous, familiar life. This excerpt from the Reader's Note in I Don't Want to Go to School provides four tips to help ease your young child's transition to preschool. You know your child well, so try to follow their lead. Tip #1: Stay Calm To help a child learn to feel safe, even in the absence of their attachment figure, the parent or caregiver needs to be (or at least appear to be) calm at the moment of separation. Children take their cues from us: if we are upset, they are much more likely to be upset. If we are calm, there's a greater chance they will calm down. Don't, however, compare your child to other children ("see how brave he is?") This is likely to just make them feel inadequate. Tip #2: Create Excitement Starting preschool is an important growth event for your child; try to convey this idea to them as well. "You are ready to go to school! You will meet new friends, learn new games, and explore a bigger world that's full of great things." When they come home, ask about their day and what they learned, and listen attentively. If you are excited and interested, it is more likely that they will be as well. Tip #3: Try a Gradual Transition When a child begins preschool, they need to remember a lot of new information: where to hang up their coat what to do if they need to use the bathroom who to tell if they don't feel well, etc. They also find themselves surrounded by lots of unfamiliar kids who are just as disoriented as they are. A gradual transition may help with this information overload. Collaborate with your school and your teachers to figure out the best path to support your child. Tip#4: Reinforce their autonomy The primary objective of preschool is to help children feel that they are capable of doing things on their own. The important role of parents and caregivers is to understand the child's basic need for autonomy and avoid trivializing, or worse,Read More
About Alberto Pellai, MD, PhDAlberto Pellai, MD, PhD, is a child psychotherapist and a researcher at the Department of Bio-medical Sciences of the University of Milan. In 2004 the Ministry of Health awarded him the silver medal of merit for public health. He is the author of numerous books for parents, teachers, teenagers, and children. He lives in Italy. Visit him at albertopellailibri.it and on Instagram @alberto_pellai.
Young children go through many, sometimes challenging, developmental phases. Magination Press’s Big Little Talks series by Alberto Pellai, MD, PhD, and Barbara Tamborini, provide fun stories to ease both parents and children through typical and common life stages using empathic listening and encouraging an understanding of age-appropriate behavior and emotions. Welcoming a new family member is a challenge for the whole family. Everyone has to learn to adjust and adapt! This adapted excerpt from the Reader’s Note in the Big Little Talks book, Oh Brother! provides strategies for parents to help their preschooler adjust to the arrival of a new sibling. Identify and Express Emotions. While young children may not understand their emotions, what they are often struggling with when a new sibling is on the way is the fear that sharing mom and dad means sharing their love. Your preschooler has very simple thoughts and may struggle to express their emotions in words. Parents can help them understand what they’re feeling with simple phrases: “The new baby will be here soon; I can see that you’re upset, and that’s OK. Let’s go on a nice run together and get rid of some of that energy you are feeling.” Prepare the Child for the Arrival of the Baby. The waiting period before the arrival of the new sibling is an important time to prepare your older child. Make them feel that they will be an important part of their new sibling’s life. “We’re going to need to get to know your new sibling. I will need your help to understand what things they like or don’t like.” Ensure, Whenever Possible, Equality and Fairness. This is true our whole lives: the more parents are able to be fair and impartial with their children, the better the children will get along. This doesn’t mean you should give everyone the same things: everyone is different and has individual needs. Being fair means taking the time to understand the needs and emotions of each child: acknowledge wrongs done, find solutions, console them, etc. A child of 3 or 4 should see that their pain is taken seriously by their parents. For example, if the younger child breaks something of the older sibling, don’t trivialize it by scolding them: “but she is little, don’t get angry with her!” This response assumes that the child is old enough to empathize with their little sibling, but their brains really aren’t quite there yet. Instead, find a solution, “Let’s find a place where you can keep all your favorite things safe, so that your little sister doesn’t ruin them.” Understand the Older Sibling’s Needs. The firstborn may “regress,” inventing care needs similar to those of the baby. Let them know that it’s not wrong to ask for special attention, even if they have outgrown some of these care needs. If you allow them to play at being little for a while and enjoy some special attention, they will feel listened to and soon return to the worldRead More