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Prepare Your Child for Pre-School
When your child starts at pre-school or playgroup, a whole new chapter begins. He or she should enjoy being more independent, and look forward to being with friends and having new experiences. Prepare him or her beforehand – and support ongoing learning – by providing opportunities for practising and enjoying activities that encourage skills:
- A love of books and reading will come from looking at appropriate picture books and having simple stories read – sharing the experience with you in a calm, comfortable atmosphere.
- Writing goes hand-in-hand with reading, and early writing skills can be established with scribbling, colouring, painting, and play-dough activities to strengthen little fingers and help with the correct grip and control of writing tools.
- As you read stories and write shopping lists or letters, involve your child, point out letters and words, and let him or her try ‘writing’.
- Age-appropriate activities, toys and computer games that are specifically designed around matching, shapes, counting and sequencing help early-number understanding and ability.
As your child adjusts to this new phase in his or her life, though, there may be less pleasant things for you to deal with. Unpleasant social behaviours such as tantrums, aggression, and even biting could rear their heads. Jealousy, clinginess and separation issues are not uncommon when starting at pre-school. Your child could develop ‘baby-habits’ – like thumb-sucking, or bedwetting after being dry for months – or start masturbating.
Try to handle any of these problems in a calm, matter-of-fact way, but act promptly to discover any particular reasons, and find a solution… before the behaviour becomes habitual.
Tantrums are often a demand for attention when your focus is elsewhere, or if your child knows you are tired – though they can be a sign of tiredness in the child, or even illness. Shouting, lying on the floor and screaming, hitting, kicking, throwing things or banging doors can all ensue, so if you spot warning signs, try to distract your child. If it’s too late, don’t react by giving the attention demanded. Ignore the behaviour and walk away – just be sure that he or she cannot get hurt when thrashing around.
In a young child, unhappiness, frustration, a learning difficulty, teasing, feelings of inferiority or feeling threatened in some way, or simply not getting his or her own way can lead to aggressive behaviour such as snatching toys, pushing or hitting other children – or biting. Sometimes the behaviour is learned from another child. Sometimes it may be because of a physical problem, such as poor hearing. If you think that your child is a victim, get him or her to talk in general about what happens in playgroup, and listen for clues. If your child is the aggressor, you also need to act. Either way, involve those in charge of your child’s group, or the other parent – especially where biting is concerned – and work together to find the cause… and a solution.
Jealousy may prove to be a problem when your child begins playgroup; a younger sibling is getting more attention, or staying with you while the older child has to ‘go off to school’. Give your child some special time alone with you – and be sure no-one in the family is actually guilty of spoiling another child.
Clinginess and separation anxiety are possible reactions to starting pre-school. Be caring, but firm, make sure your child knows what is happening, and that you will be back – and do not be late back! If anxiety occurs later, when your child has previously been happy to leave you, you need to investigate. Ask the playgroup leader if something has happened recently – maybe a little friend has left, and your child has difficulty making new friends. And it may help if you stay for a while until your child settles again. Clinginess could also just be a phase that will soon pass if you don’t make an issue of it, but do ask if there is anything going around, as illness may be a cause.
Reverting to ‘baby behaviour’ such as thumb sucking or bedwetting may be your child’s reaction to the new situation. Both can be signs of stress or upset – don’t get angry, but give love and reassurance, encouragement and time to talk about things. Bedwetting at a stressful time in a child’s life is fairly common – though check that there is no infection or illness by seeing your doctor if you suspect either of these. And take precautions like not allowing lots to drink before bedtime, and taking your child to the toilet when you are heading for bed yourself.
At some stage, your pre-school child may find it pleasant to touch himself, or herself, ‘down there’ in the genital area. Do not be alarmed – this is not uncommon behaviour… ignore it, or find a distraction if necessary. He or she will usually soon grow out of the behaviour.
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