For most parents, scheduling a visit day or group screening brings mixed emotions. For some it’s a milestone and evidence that their “baby” is getting ready for “big kid” school – this can be associated with feeling regretful that the preschool days are almost over and, for others, it’s a time to be celebrated and anticipated. Some families, particularly those with older children, can feel a sense of “here we go again….I wonder if this will be a different experience than with my older kids”. And then there are families who feel true and genuine discomfort at the thought of a screening or other scrutiny of their son. For most, there is a healthy sense of the unknown and a strong feeling of “I really hope he’s on his best behavior that day.”!
Whatever your feelings may be, we understand what you are going through. We are here to support and guide you and your son through this process. We know that this can be an exciting moment tinged with apprehension and, for some, anxiety. As we have overseen screenings and visits for young boys over the years, we have complied our best suggestions for approaching and experiencing the day positively and enjoyably. We hope these help you to prepare!
- Young children often pick up on the mood of their parents, and can be particularly sensitive to tension and anxiety. Try to be your usual self as you get closer to your visit or screening. Try to avoid talking about the screening or visit with other adults if your child can hear your conversation. Raising the profile of the visit disproportionally can send a message to your child that he is under increased pressure to perform in a certain way, which can lead to confusion.
- Do talk to your child directly about the screening and visit. Make it clear that people are excited to meet him and to get to know him. Ask them to be themselves and discuss what that means.
- Talk through what they do at a normal day at preschool and share that they might do some of those things at University School. Explain that there will be some time for playing, some time for learning and some time for listening.
- Ask your child how he can show you, his teachers and adults at University School that he is listening with his whole body. Ask him how he might greet another boy that he has never met. Ask him to tell you what he is most proud to share about himself at University School.
- Tell your child that he should expect to have fun and enjoy his day. Try to think of another occasion when he has been in a new or unfamiliar situation and make a connection. Tell your son that it’s part of growing up to experience new environments. Try to avoid statements like, “It’s important that this visit goes well” or “You must behave perfectly” or similar remarks. Try to say, “I can’t wait for you to meet some new friends and teachers” or “I think you will have fun learning some new things in a new place”.
- A great night’s sleep and a regular schedule on the morning of the screening or visit can be helpful. It can be a good idea to let your son pick some music to play in the car on the way to the campus or let him pick a favorite before and/or after screening snack.
- If your son is anxious about separating from you, call the admission team ahead of time and talk this through. Don’t build your own worry by hoping that things go well in the moment. We can help and we understand that some boys need more support with separation. If it’s on your mind, share your thoughts with us so that we can be part of the situation. In the meantime, reassure your son with comments such as, “I’ll be right next door” and “I’ll be waiting to find out about what you did”.
- When your son is done with his visit or screening, remember that his brain may still be in overload from the new experiences and situations. Trying to get feedback on how things went is likely to be difficult as his brain is processing dozens of new messages. A big hug or a trip for a treat (or a nap!) can be the best way to let him process his experience before talking it through.
- Once your son has had some time to process his visit, questions such as, “What games did you play?” or “Did you build anything?” or “Did the teacher read a story?” are more likely to produce detailed answers. A general “How was it?” is often a very difficult question for young boys to answer. Asking your son to draw a picture of his visit and then asking him to explain what the picture shows can be a very fruitful way to get information.
- Remember that, in the admission department, we have screened hundreds of boys and we have a very wide sense of how boys handle this experience. My own son hopped on one leg for most of his screening – something he had never done before and has never done since. He was clearly reacting to the unfamiliar nature of the experience and was responding in a manner that expressed his discomfort. In summary, don’t be too troubled if your son acts in a way that is a little out of character or seems slightly unfamiliar to you. He is likely reacting to a sense of occasion and expectation that he may not be able to express or process. We understand that and hope that we can help you to navigate it, too.
As you get closer to your visit, please remember that, at University School, we know boys. We encourage you to lean into this experience and to enjoy it as a part of your son and your family’s journey. We have 127 years of experience in celebrating all facets of boys and their personalities. We look forward to meeting your son!