Q&A: moving child from preschool in one language to preschool in another language

N writes:

"I was wondering if you or your readers might have any suggestions or advice on moving a preschool-aged child to a new daycare. More specifically, moving to a daycare where the language spoken is different from the child's language?

Some context: My wife and I are very keen on raising our nearly 3-year-old son to be fully bilingual in English (his primary language) and French (my wife's primary language). From the age of 10 months he has gone to the same daycare where the sole language spoken by the caregivers is the language he is fluent in: English. We're thinking about moving him to a French day care, but are a little concerned about how traumatic / frustrating this might be for a child who speaks very little French.

If anyone has any experience in this situation, or experience with switching daycares, I'd love to hear how it went for you, how your child adapted, and the challenges you faced."

I think this is one of those situations that's going to suck in the short term. So if you're prepared for that now it'll be easier on all of you.

the thing that will probably help most with the general switch is to tell your son about it with enough time so that he can prepare mentally, and so that he can say goodbye to his current caregivers and friends there, but not so far in advance that he gets worked up about it over time. That sweet spot seems like a week or two. (If you can keep in touch with the other kids and the caregivers he likes, that's a very good thing.)

Making sure he's seen and spent some time at the new place before he starts there full-time will help, too, so he has a firm idea of where he's going and that there are fun people there, too, and nothing to be afraid of.

I'm not really sure what to do about the language switch, since you haven't been speaking too much French to him before now. Maybe you can figure out what the phrases and questions and commands he's most likely to need to understand right away are, and start using them at home. That way he'll at least understand a little when he first gets there.

Have you talked to the director and staff at the new school about ways to ease the language transition? They might have some more solid things you can do before and during the transition to make it go more smoothly for him and for you two.

In the long run, it will have been easier for him to switch now than when he's older. So it will be a benefit to him. Knowing that, though, the first few weeks might be tough.

Has anyone been in a similar situation and have advice to offer, even if you didn't switch languages?