By: Rebecca Perlman Coniglio, LCSW
Author of Lily’s Little Life Lessons
June is here and graduation celebrations are popping up everywhere. I have seen many articles, news stories, and advertisements all focused on high school and college graduation. The memories of those huge life achievements are crystal clear in my mind. I can see the caps and gowns and feel the bright summer sun shining on me as I accepted my hard earned diplomas. What I could not imagine back in those days was what it would feel like to be a parent at my very first graduation ceremony. That is until this week when my one and only child graduated from preschool.
I don’t feel like preschool graduation gets the attention that it deserves. This is a huge accomplishment for the little ones and their parents. When it came time for my husband and me to choose a preschool for our daughter, we took it very seriously. We asked friends with young children for advice, did research online, and went on several school visits. We were not looking for the most prestigious school or the perfect school; we were looking for a place that was just right for us and our daughter. Of course we went with the school that was the last one on our list. It was as if we stumbled on it by accident, but it was meant for our family. I can remember the first time I took my little two year old to see the school. She was wearing a powder blue outfit and ran right over and jumped onto a ride on toy car and got all dirty. I knew then and there that this was a whole new world. The school felt right, and I am glad I trusted my gut because it was an incredible first learning experience for all of us. Over the next three years, we met wonderful families, attended countless birthday parties, and watched as our little two and a half year old blossomed into a bright, friendly, and very grown up five and a half year old.
When you think about it, preschool is the first time new and often nervous parents have to trust others to take care of this little person that they have loved and cared for since birth. It is also the first time young children are expected to learn critical life skills such as listening, following directions, and forming friendships. While the children are learning to sit at snack time and play in groups, parents are navigating the world of teacher conferences and what to bring on Wacky Wednesday. If your child has a positive preschool experience, it can set him or her up to enjoy school in the future. So you can see why I feel that preschool graduation should be a time of reflection and celebration just as other graduations are. Here are some ideas how to celebrate your little one’s preschool graduation:
1. Take a lot of pictures. You will want to remember this special time because time can feel like it is moving too fast.
2. Review work samples with your child to show her how much she has learned in preschool.
3. Help your child write special letters of thanks to the teachers and school staff. This is a good exercise in expressing gratitude.
4. If your preschool provides a graduation certificate, make sure you display it in your house with pride.
5. Go out for a celebratory dinner or ice cream. Your little one has worked hard and so have you.
6. Look ahead to next school year. Over the summer read books with your child about kindergarten. Get ready; get excited, there are new memories to make and more graduation days to come.
As I drove away from my daughter’s preschool for the very last time this week, it was with a heavy heart. I cherished our time there, and I am sad that it has ended already. I will take with me the lessons I learned about loving my daughter and letting her go and grow. I know she will take with her the friendships she made, the beautiful art work she created with her tiny hands, and the songs she learned there that fill our home with music. Yes, preschool graduation is one of life’s earliest triumphs, and one to be celebrated all summer long.
Rebecca Perlman Coniglio is a social worker in private practice and works with children and adolescents. She is the author of Lily’s Little Life Lessons book one and two, which are available at Barnesandnoble.com, Amazon.com, and Mascotbooks.com. Rebecca will be reading her books on Saturday June 23rd at 11:00 am at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey.