Helping Your Child Adjust to Preschool or Daycare

Starting preschool or daycare is a momentous occasion in your young child’s life. Some children make the transition fairly easily, while others experience more challenges.

If you are noticing that your child seems to be having difficulty adjusting to preschool or daycare, here are some considerations that may help her.

How much time has passed?

Most likely, starting preschool or daycare is the biggest new experience your child has encountered thus far. With this in mind, it may be that a bit more time is needed before he has fully adjusted to the new routine. Though the time frame differs with each child, some take up to a month before they are fully comfortable with the transition from preschool to daycare. It may simply be a matter of giving your child more time.

Be patient and consistent

If it has been a couple of weeks and your child still cries when being dropped off, or exhibits other signs of distress, it can feel tempting to cancel everything. While it may seem like a good idea to pull your child out of preschool or daycare, there is also the possibility that you could teach her that her fears were valid. She may also miss out on learning useful coping strategies such as talking about her feelings.

Instead, maintain a consistent preschool or daycare routine, encourage her to talk about how she feels, and be patient while she learns to understand this new experience.

Avoid big changes elsewhere

Because starting preschool or daycare is such a big change in your child’s life, it may be best to avoid other big changes if possible. For example, the week after your child’s first day at preschool may not be the best time to adopt a new family pet, or transition him to a “big-kid bed.” Even if these changes are positive ones, they may overwhelm your child and give him too much to deal with. In fact, a positive change such as a new pet could make your child even less willing to go to preschool or daycare than before. Try to maintain a steady and reliable home environment for a few weeks to give your child a familiar foundation he doesn’t have to worry about.

Try to help your child make friends

One reason children may have difficulty adjusting to preschool or daycare is all the new people they now have in their lives. It can feel overwhelming for them to meet so many people at once. You can help your child feel more comfortable by making a play date with one or two other kids from the class, in a fun and neutral environment. Making a friend can help your child feel less anxious during his day at preschool or daycare.

For more socialization tips, read our blog post about helping your child make friends at daycare. If your child is having difficulty during drop-off at preschool or daycare, read our tips for coping with back-to-school separation anxiety.

Adjusting to daycare or preschool is a process that varies from child to child. However, by considering the timing, being patient, avoiding other big changes, and encouraging your child to make friends, you can help make that adjustment easier.