On Sawyer’s first day of preschool, he hung his backpack in his cubby, hugged me around my waist, and nuzzled his cheek beneath my rib. “Goodbye Mama,” he said. I patted his back. We separated. I waved, hot from withholding tears. I’d been so focused on preparing him for school that I neglected my own heart.

“Parents should remember that they are the adults,” says pediatrician Natalie Geary of ModernMums.com. “If you’re going to cry, wait until you are out of your child’s earshot. Don’t subject children to it.” I took a few deep breaths, remembered how much I liked Sawyer’s teachers, and calmed myself with the words I’d incanted to my son. I’ll see you at pick up.

Good preschools play a role in helping children and parents transition. Ronnie Moskowitz, Director of The Washington Market School in Manhattan, where my son attended, arranges for teachers to visit children and their families at home over the summer. She also encourages children to visit before school starts to get acquainted with the environment. Sawyer’s teachers mailed a “Me Book” to us in August. We filled it with photographs, Sawyer’s drawings and stories about him, and brought it to school on the first day. He could pull it from the bin and flip through it if he felt lonely, and take control of those feelings.

Empowering children in little ways encourages their self-esteem. “Fruit kebobs are a great way to encourage your kids to eat healthy and participate in the preparation of the snack. Send a few different fruits to school, like strawberries, grapes, and apple chunks with wooden skewers, and let the fun begin. For an extra treat, include large marshmallows!” suggests Carla Sullivan of MiniMunchers.com.

“Routines help children feel secure, adds Dr. Geary. “Make a visual calendar of what their day is going to be like. Include a photo of the person doing drop off, and a picture to represent an after school activity. If my daughter has dance, I use a picture of a ballerina.”

If your child cries, stick to the routine. Engage him with other children. Be firm and direct. Make sure your child eats a good breakfast and gets a full night’s sleep.

My son had a honeymoon period at preschool and then began to get anxious. When I asked him to voice his concerns, he said, “I might have an accident. It’s hard to unbutton my pants.” Averting a meltdown at preschool is sometimes as simple as converting to an elastic waistband.

Pari Chang is an attorney and a single mother of two. She is the lead writer for the law offices of Daniel R. Rosen, a Denver personal injury law firm. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, SELF, Glamour, Redbook, and the anthology, Behind The Bedroom Door. She is at work on a book, Notes from the Basement.

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