Studies and experts now recommend holding children back rather than sending them to school early, but what happens when all their friends are off to kindergarten and they’re left behind at preschool? It can be upsetting for kids and challenging for parents. Here are our tips for how to handle this tricky situation.
Give them lots of warning
If you know in advance that you’re going to be holding your child back a year, then make sure you start communicating this to them as early as possible. Children don’t like surprises and may be terribly upset if they’re suddenly told at the last minute they’re not going to start school with their friends. Especially if their daycare or preschool has been doing lots of school readiness activities and their excitement is building. Communicating early on will really help them avoid disappointment and confusion.
Consider changing preschools
This might not be feasible for everyone, but it can help kids settle into a new preschool year without their friends faster. This also helps avoid the issue of repeating the exact same childcare program which could make them bored or disruptive. You can even get them excited about starting at a new preschool – just like their friends who are also going to a new school.
Step up their days in care
If your child has only been going to the occasional playgroup rather than regular daycare, then now is a good time to send them along – even just for one day. It will make them feel like they’re doing something special and exciting – just like their friends who are off to Big School. Likewise, if your child has been in care for two days then step it up to three, if you can afford it. Not only will they benefit from the stimulation but it will stop you from going mad trying to entertain them again for another whole year.
Make it special
Whatever they’re doing for the next year (even if it’s staying at the same daycare centre or at home with you), make them feel like it’s super special and incredibly important. It doesn’t matter if it’s not really, if they feel it is then their feelings won’t be so hurt and they’ll focus on the excitement and pride associated with what they’re doing each week instead. This is especially crucial for when you’ve decided at the last minute you won’t be sending them. Explaining that they’re doing something different to their friends which is just as important and fun as school but better for them right now, can also go a long way.
Initially, your child will feel sad that their friends have been ‘taken away’ from them, so be sure to reassure them they can still invite them to parties and see them on weekends and holidays for playdates. While staying in touch with these old friends is nice, it’s also important to help them forge new friendships with other kids who will be going to school at the same time the following year. Reach out to other parents at daycare or preschool, neighbours, local community groups or Facebook pages for the school where your child will be going.
Mix up your activities
If your child doesn’t go to daycare every day and is with you or another carer for some (or all) of the week, then maybe it’s time to change things up a bit. You’ll have an entire year before they go to school, and as they’re getting older their needs for learning and stimulation are greater. It doesn’t have to be anything too complex, you could simply add a new activity into the mix for your weekly outings – such as going to the library. At-home school readiness activities you can do together, such as Reading Eggs or more focused arts and crafts, are also a good idea.
Wait it out
It might be tough at the start of the new year when your little one is no longer seeing their friends during the day. They might have more tears, tantrums and boredom but stay strong. As they slip into a new routine, different environment and start mixing with other kids their age, it won’t take long for them to create new friendships and be comfortable with the fact that they’re not at school just yet.