While the birth-to-age-three period is known to encompass the fastest rate of brain development across the entire human lifespan, that doesn’t mean every child learns, thinks, or feels in the same way. Parents of highly sensitive children certainly know this to be true. While some children may take to the first day of preschool like a fish to water, a highly sensitive child (or HSC) may find it much tougher to make this adjustment. When you explore your preschool options and ready your child for this transition, you may want to keep the following tips in mind.
Communicate With Teachers
Whether you’re in the process of choosing the right preschool or you’ve already enrolled your child and will soon be preparing for the first day, it’s vital to communicate with your child’s teachers about your child’s sensitivity. Some teachers may think they know better than you do about how to help your child adjust. But the truth is that no one will understand your child more completely than you. To that end, you’ll need to educate and communicate with those teachers before and during your child’s time in their program. Highly sensitive children want to express their thoughts and feelings, more so than many other children their age. They also need to have ample opportunities for choice and to know that their teacher is checking up on them. Since highly sensitive children often feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, you’ll need to let teachers know how key downtime can be. By expressing your child’s specific needs to their teachers — and making sure that they will follow through — you’ll strengthen your child’s chances of success and happiness at school.
Plan In Advance
For any child, a change in routine can be a bit traumatic. But for highly sensitive children, this kind of disruption can be extremely frightening. Change can be very difficult for HSC, which may explain why many children who are highly sensitive take a much longer time to adjust to parental separation or other life developments. You can minimize negative feelings by making sure your child feels comfortable in this new environment (through facility tours, teacher introductions, or shadowing). You can even take photos of all of the locations in the school to review at home so that they’ll feel like they’re equipped to handle this new place. Get a good idea of the daily schedule from your child’s teacher and find out the school’s policy on parents staying with their children until they gain confidence. (Ideally, you should find this out while you’re still assessing your preschool options.) Finally, you may want to start implementing a new routine earlier than necessary. Dealing with so many new aspects at once — like an early wake-up time, a different breakfast routine, rides in the car, and more — can be extremely difficult, so your child may fare better if you gradually build up to it.
Continue To Advocate
Even a good preschool program may not always translate to a positive experience for your child, particularly if there’s high staff turnover or unclear communication between staff members. While educating your child’s teacher before school begins is imperative, you’ll probably need to continue to advocate for your child all throughout this time. Remember that there is a learning curve involved. Although highly sensitive people have always existed, these traits have only come to the forefront of society within recent years. Therefore, your child’s teachers may not always do what’s best, even if they’re trying. Parents need to speak up if their child is utterly exhausted or crying due to overstimulation at the end of the day. Remember to keep communicating with your child, too. This is often the most effective way to assess whether a routine is working or not.
With so many preschool options available, it can be tough for parents to know which would serve their children best. If you have a highly sensitive child, keep their needs in mind when exploring preschool options in your area and be sure to communicate with staff during the process.