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Easing the Transition to Preschool or Reception

I wasn’t really expecting to be writing this post so far into our daughter, Pixie’s, preschool career. She’s just turned four and now been attending for a year. However it transpires that just because a child has previously been settled, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’ll remain so. Unfortunately we currently find ourselves back in a situation where our daughter is not very happy at drop off, and doesn’t want to be in preschool.

There’s nothing worse than taking your child somewhere that’s supposed to be both safe and fun, and then being in the untenable position of listening to them sobbing and wailing for you not to leave.

I think the issue for Pixie is likely tied up in the fact that she knows she’ll soon be moving home and switching to a new setting (more of which to come on my blog soon). Nevertheless, the fact remains I need to find a way to help her feel more comfortable for her last few weeks – so I’m falling back onto some of the tricks I’ve used in the past. I hope some of these may also be helpful for you.

Understand and Respond to Your Child’s Needs

All children are different and will respond to different strategies. As an example of this, when Pixie had just turned three I used to take her to a gymnastics class which I’d sit and watch. She was very fond of one of the teachers, but one day it all went very wrong. Sadly, I watched it before me and knew it was about to unravel, but because I was nursing her baby sister, I wasn’t able to jump up and grab her before it was too late…

Pixie was feeling slightly overwhelmed, and I knew that if gave her just a couple of minutes to find some confidence and then encouraged her, she’d gravitate towards the teacher whilst feeling secure. However, the teacher watched and decided that Pixie needed some tough love; she picked her up and attempted to jolly her along as she carried her away from me. I knew instantly it was the wrong way to handle my little girl, and soon after I had to pull her from the class.

This taught me to be vocal at her preschool about how I wanted to support Pixie in getting past her separation anxiety.


I was determined to take things slowly and at her pace, if possible.

Someone once gave me a fantastic tip which I tried and worked beautifully. Pixie is big into fantasy and magic, so I drew a small heart on the palm of her hand, and one to match on my own. I told her that if she missed me she could press the heart and I’d feel it, and it would be like we were holding hands. She lapped it up and it really helped her to feel connected to me when I wasn’t physically with her.

…. But Not Too Much

Being mindful of your own child’s needs is important, and your preschooler may respond better to a short sharp shock. Nobody is better placed than you to decide the best way to handle the issue, and you should listen to your instinct – mummy intuition rarely lets us down.

However, it’s also important to be adaptable.

After a period of being fairly settled, Pixie subsequently went through a very difficult phase when her baby sister arrived. It was different to her previous legitimate lack of confidence, and I knew it needed to be handled accordingly. It was quite clear to me that rather than being about preschool, this time it was actually about attention seeking from me. The faux separation anxiety ratcheted up a gear and in the end I had no choice but to do the one thing I really didn’t want to: I walked away from her.

Look at the Bigger Picture

I was having dreadful feelings of guilt about leaving Pixie screaming three times a week, and I knew I needed to address the real issue. I made a plan with my husband for Pixie and I to have special time together, just the two of us.

And it began to work – when Pixie’s relationship with me was reaffirmed, things in other areas of her life improved as a result.

With things having gone a little bit backwards again, I’m taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture again. I can see that while I’ve been working very hard on dealing with her baby sister’s disinterest in sleeping like a normal person, Pixie has been suffering. I’ve had less time for her, and she feels that.

This weekend we’ve booked in a mummy-daughter date, and I can’t wait to get things back on track with my big girl. Because the bottom line is that when they suffer, we suffer. And actually, it doesn’t take much for me to know when the root problem is that she’s missing me; because I miss my little mate too.

Today we both have hearts drawn on our palms, and it’s as much for me as it is for her.


Cynic; Jedi Master; connoisseur of cake: Kate Tunstall blogs at The Less-Refined Mind and has been featured on BritMums, Mothercare, and Huffington Post. From petty peeves to politics, Kate doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is. As an inevitable role-model to her daughters, she even throws in the odd ‘inspirational’ post in an effort to quell her cynicism and promote positivity.

Kate resides in rural Essex with her champion husband and their young daughters, affectionately known as the ‘Devil Pixie’ and ‘Elfin Angel’ – only one of whom lives up to their moniker…

Sometimes caustic – but always candid – Kate loves a provocative subject matter almost as much as she loves (good) coffee and (great) cake.

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