A child’s first steps into preschool are not only exciting but also full of challenges. We can never fully predict how our little ones will react to the first stimuli of the new preschool environment and how they will behave. We can only make assumptions based on our knowledge as parents, but each child has their own temperament, different resources, and comes from a unique background, making the adaptation process highly individual.


Models of adaptive behaviors


Full adaptation model

Children exhibiting this model of adaptation interact easily with their peers and preschool staff. They are bold, confident, often have well-developed speech and a rich vocabulary, which facilitates better communication with others. A high level of social development makes it easier for them to function in preschool. These children usually attended daycare earlier, which gave them experience in being in a peer group.


Partial adaptation model

Children in this model are observers. When entering the room, they first stand aside and closely observe what is happening. They are rather silent and do not stand out. After a while, this changes – the child begins to cooperate, initiates play with others, and feels more confident. The adaptation process may take longer but ends successfully.


Transitional maladaptation model

Children in this model exhibit high emotional sensitivity initially. They are very tearful, struggle with missing their parents, avoid peers, and do not respond to the teacher's efforts to help. When distracted, they may be persuaded to cooperate, such as watching books together or assembling puzzles, but then revert to crying and sadness. These children often fall ill, and after returning to preschool, they have to readjust to the new conditions.


Social maladaptation model

Children in this model adopt a combative attitude towards the new situation. Their way of coping in the new environment is aggression towards other children and preschool staff. This behavior subsides over time but can be difficult for the surroundings initially. Such behavior results from a disturbed sense of security and fear about whether their parent will return for them.


Emotional maladaptation model

Children in this model do not cry or protest when left at preschool, but their faces often show sadness, and it is hard to cheer them up. They complete preschool tasks with great concentration but lack energy. They do not take the initiative to play with other children or the teacher.


Conclusions for parents

Parents often wonder why their child cries, refuses to cooperate, while other children eagerly stay in preschool after a few days. Instead of worrying and blaming themselves, the child, or the preschool, it is worth becoming familiar with different models of adaptive behaviors. Every child is different and has different predispositions for handling stressful situations. It is important to give the child the time and support they need to go through the adaptation process in preschool.


Remember that adaptation is a process that requires patience and understanding. Every child goes through it in their own way, and our task is to support them in this challenging but crucial stage of life.


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