5 essential skills your child needs to survive preschool

Before the new school year starts, get expert advice on prepping your tot for preschool!

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Starting preschool is a major milestone your tot will face in early childhood. Besides having to complete more tasks on their own, they’ll also find themselves among unfamiliar faces in a new environment.

Noting that attention should be paid to your child’s emotional well-being at this stage, parenting expert Fiona Maher O’Sullivan stresses, “If your child feels [alright], they will behave right and that would help them pick up new skills, faster.”

While getting your child ready for preschool may seem daunting, the good news is that it’ll develop the same set of skills they’ll need to do well in Primary school, too! Both O’Sullivan and Think Psychological Services’ clinical psychologist Dr Vaani Gunaseelan suggest ways to build the skills your little one needs, so that they’ll get the most out of preschool…

1) Can cope with separation anxiety

WHY? Unless your child has attended nursery classes, preschool will be the first time they’ll be on their own. Your mini-me may show signs of separation anxiety either by throwing a tantrum before school or refusing to go to school. O’Sullivan, who is from Incontact Counselling and Training Centre, adds that research shows that boys may face more separation anxiety than girls. “[Boys] may take longer to adjust to the transition, and so we may have to give them more time to [get used to it].”

EXPERT ADVICE Don’t be your kewpie’s only caregiver, O’Sullivan shares that this will make it tougher when you both need to separate. For several days a week, get someone else to watch your little one instead. O’Sullivan advises, “Start with short periods of separation and slowly work your way up to longer periods.”

“[Boys] may take longer to adjust to the transition, and so we may have to give them more time to [get used to it].”

Building your sweetie’s confidence will encourage independence. Let them do simple things like feeding themselves, going to the toilet on their own and standing on a baby stool to wash their hands. “The most important thing to note is to allow them to take ownership of the activity that they are doing and allow them to make mistakes.”

Dr Vaani stresses that you should refrain from doing tasks for them, which they can do themselves like getting dressed or brushing their teeth.

2) Able to follow a schedule

WHY? Preschool classes are carried out on a fixed schedule. Your mini-me must be able to follow through with the activities, so that they won’t upset or affect the rest of the class.

EXPERT ADVICE Implement a schedule at home, so that your child will know how to follow a routine. A simple one consists of things like when your child is expected to wake up, what time lunch is and the activities you’ve planned for him. You should also prepare them as you transit from one activity to the next. Dropping hints like “We will be leaving for the park once you’ve taken a shower”, tells your kewpie what to expect and when to expect the next activity.

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3) Able to concentrate

WHY? Your mini-me is expected to complete or be motivated to finish a scheduled task or activity on on their own without losing interest too quickly.

EXPERT ADVICE Introduce tasks that your child is interested in and mix it with tasks that they are less motivated to complete, shares Dr Vaani. Then, progressively increase the time you want them to work on each task and reward them when they are able to stay focused. Dr Vaani suggests doing simple activities like connecting the dots or playing memory card games.

O’Sullivan notes that you may also want to consider your child’s learning style and the teaching methods that the preschool uses. Some children do better by seeing, others by hearing and then there are children who benefit by feeling. O’Sullivan urges that you enrol your sweetie in a preschool that’s better suited to your child’s learning habits for greater success.

Your child’s fidgety ways doesn’t necessarily mean he has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), either. Dr Vaani highlights common signs of ADHD include:

* Difficulty remaining seated when expected to.

* Excessive running and climbing around.

* Excessive talking.

* Difficulty waiting for his turn,

* Being easily distracted,

* Having difficulty following instructions.

Dr Vaani adds that if your child displays only one or a few of those symptoms, it may not necessarily indicate that they have ADHD. O’Sullivan points out that it can also be difficult to tell the difference between ADHD and normal kid behaviour.

Spotting restless behaviour during specific activities means your child probably isn’t suffering from ADHD. O’Sullivan notes, “If your child shows a number of signs of ADHD across all situations — at home, at school and at play — it’s time to take a closer look.” It’ll be best to get your child diagnosed through a formal assessment by a trained professional.

“If your child shows a number of signs of ADHD across all situations — at home, at school and at play — it’s time to take a closer look.”

4) Becoming more sociable

WHY? Preschool is a new environment filled with new faces, from your child’s new teacher to the classmates and friends they’ll make. Being able to communicate and relate with others will allow them to make friends and therefore, stay enthusiastic and positive about school.

EXPERT ADVICE You are your child’s best playmate. Dr Vaani advises you to set aside time to play with your child and expose them to different age-appropriate games to boost their development. Otherwise, there’s no better way to improve your child’s social skills than to let them meet and interact with other children outside. Dr Vaani suggests bringing them out for playdates or organised child activities. The neighbourhood playground is a good place to start, notes O’Sullivan. Introduce a routine of visiting the same playground to build familiarity, confidence and social skills. O’Sullivan adds, “Parents can also meet like-minded parents and friendships can grow.”

5) Able to control their emotions

WHY? Impulse control isn’t junior’s strong suit, but it is a necessary skill that ensures they don’t pick fights and makes friends instead. An impulsive child will lash out and become physically aggressive because of their inability to control strong emotions such as anger.

EXPERT ADVICE You should lead by example and show your kids how you have control over your own emotions by staying calm. Dr Vaani advises, “Children learn how to manage their emotions based on how parents respond, so ensure that you do not dismiss their negative emotions. Be calm and supportive.”

Avoid being critical during their outbursts and labelling them as an angry or naughty child. O’Sullivan advises that you discuss that you’re disappointed with their behaviour — not theim. For instance, if your child hits another child at the playground, you should tell your mini-me: “Mummy is very sad to see you hit that boy at the playground and I did not like what you did today”. This lets them take responsibility for the situation, while giving them the chance to air their feelings.

Photos: iStock

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