BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With so many moms and dads working from home this past year, a lot of kids have spent time away from their preschools and have instead been with their families. As many parents head back to the office, however, many young children will be going back to the classroom for the first time in a long time.
We reached out to an expert to give parents tips on transitioning kids back to preschool post-pandemic.
Dr. Christine Wang is the Director of UB's Early Childhood Research Center. She says kids are often more comfortable with change than we might think, but some things that happened this past year may have been a little confusing for them. For example, it became more difficult for kids to pick up on facial cues because the adults around them were wearing masks. To help compensate for that, she says the teachers at her preschool used words to explain to the kids what was happening.
"The teacher would tell them "I'm smiling but you couldn't see me!" So they used language to guide the kids to read and understand the facial cues covered by the mask," Wang explained.
Mom Kristin Cruz, who has two preschoolers at the center, noticed small reactions from her kids
"They were young enough to where they adjusted quickly, but in the beginning they were a little confused," she said. "When they would look at people and they couldn't see the friendliness of their smile - I think that made a difference."
Cruz says her kids participated in virtual preschool for a few weeks, and were back in the classroom when school opened again. But many kids have yet to be back in the classroom at all. So what can parents do now to help their kids get ready?
Tips for helping your kids transition back to preschool:
- Talk to your kids about the transition."Introduce them to the idea of preschool. Talk about now things are mostly going back to normal. Mom's going to go back to work, you can go back to preschool," explained Dr. Wang.
- Act it out through play"Play would be a great way to help them to adjust. Play - pretend you're going to preschool. Pack your backpack," Dr. Wang suggested.
- Allow kids to take a comfort item when they head back to school
"Sometimes a favorite thing - an object for kids to bring to preschool can help them have an emotional anchor. Mom's not here - but I know this thing can connect. Mom told me I can hold this small toy," she said.
Wang also said parents should keep in mind how resilient kids are. Cruz says she saw that in her kids as soon as they were back in the classroom.
"Being able to come here made a huge difference for them. That was their structure. That was their friends. That was their playtime and sense of normalcy," she said.