Since many preschool programs require that children be fully potty-trained before enrolling, some parents begin to feel stressed when their child's third birthday approaches with no success in the toilet-training department. It's important to keep in mind that kids won't generally train until they are ready; if your child isn't able to get the basics down pat, then pushing the issue is not likely to help. For little ones who are on the cusp of being able to do it all by themselves, however, there are some steps you can take to boost the odds in their favor and to make continued learning a bit less stressful on everyone.
Think Ahead to Reduce Stress
Whether your child is in daycare already or is at home with you, entering preschool is a big milestone. A child who is home with mom or dad during the day might look forward to being able to go to "big kid" school soon. If your little one is in daycare, he or she will want to graduate to the preschool program when their friends do. Begin talking up the need for being a big boy or girl by using the potty several months in advance of the transition.
This gives you time to work on it without putting your child on a stressful countdown. For example, if you start potty training in February and it doesn't seem to be working, you can easily abandon your efforts for a couple of months to let your child mature a bit more. Starting again in April or May will still give you plenty of time to get the job done by August, when preschool might start.
Know What Potty-Trained Really Means
Some parents think that as long as their child is not wearing diapers any more, the potty-training is complete. When it comes to preschool, however, that's not quite the case. The teacher is not going to want to or be able to help your child wipe or put his or her clothes back on. Also, while the teacher will probably remind children to wash their hands, this is something that your child should be able to do on his or her own.
When teaching your child, be sure to coach him or her through all of the tasks needed to use the toilet correctly. This means having your child flush, wipe, pull up and fasten pants, and wash hands with as minimal assistance as possible.
Have a Plan for When School Starts
While your child will need to be potty-trained to start preschool, there will likely be some accidents and difficult situations once school begins. Sending a just-in-case pack will be helpful to both your child and his or her teacher if and when accidents happen. Include a spare change of clothes in a self-sealing plastic bag and a package of wet wipes so your son or daughter can clean up if there's an accident.
Also, communicate with your child's teacher about how potty-training has been going. If your child is newly trained, the teacher will know to be on the lookout for fidgeting and pulling at clothing, which might indicate that your little one needs a reminder to go use the potty. Let the teacher know that you'd like to be informed of any accidents, particularly if your child has been trained for a while, because urinary incontinence can sometimes be caused by a bladder infection or other condition that might warrant a trip to the doctor.
Potty-training for preschool does not have to be a stressful lesson in the life of your child. Start early, make sure training is thorough, and have a plan for when (not if) accidents occur.
For more information and tips, contact your local preschool, such as Sammamish Montessori School, or another child care professional.