Preschool Disasters: How to Handle Themby Katlyn Joy
Preschool represents a child's entrance into formal education and a step toward independence for your child. While it is exciting and a new stage of development, it often has some missteps and setbacks for many families. While some problems may not quite qualify as true crises, any parent knows when you can't be with your child and any problem erupts, it feels like a crisis. Plus which little issues may grow into bigger ones if handled improperly or ignored? When do you act and when do you step back? Being a parent means handling a million toddler and preschooler's questions, and double that for those internal questions that threaten your own peace of mind.
Be proactive. Go to all parent nights, conferences and take advantage of times when you can be a presence at your child's school. The reason? You'll become familiar with and to your child's teacher and the school staff. This proximity and familiarity will enable both sides to know who they are dealing with and in effect the possibilities for misunderstandings are greatly reduced.
Read all letters sent from school promptly and thoroughly and if the preschool has a website, check it frequently. Last minute notices, schedule changes and requests for help can slip through the cracks if you don't check the backpack nightly.
Listen to your child and ask plenty of open-ended questions. A story that sounds horrifying at first, "Maggie hit Joe with a toy today," has an alarming quality until you ask the follow up query, "And what happened next?" "It was a stuffed bear and Joe laughed." Let your child speak unhindered and try to strain emotional reactions out of your responses so you can get a accurate picture of reality.
If your child is suffering from acute separation anxiety, talk to your child's teacher about how he is once he arrives and what advice the teacher may have for you. The teacher has likely encountered this problem many many times and will undoubtedly have some well-used advice. If your child's teacher recommends you not linger outside the door or in the hallway, then by all means try to abide. If your gut tells you something is wrong, talk to administration and see if there are any problems you may be unaware of. If your child's school thinks your child has a serious case of anxiety, you should seek out professional advice. You might see a school counselor, a child psychologist or speak to your child's pediatrician. Anxiety that is left unchecked may grow into a more serious and deeply rooted situation.
Bullies are everywhere, even on the preschool playground. Bullying has become a hot topic issue in the last few years and schools and administration are slowly becoming more proactive with the problem. If your child complains consistently of difficulty with a child or a group of children, ask very specific questions to gain a picture of when and where the bullying occurs. What activity leads up to the problem? Once you've gotten the needed info from your child, talk to the teacher. Be specific, tell about instances you've heard about from your child and name names. There are times to be candid and this is one. Work on a plan to help your child feel at ease and safe at school. If problems persist, speak to the administration at the preschool.
On the other hand, if your child comes home speaking meanly about a child because she is different in some way or discusses inappropriate behavior he has participated in or witnesses, don't ignore it. Immediately talk to your child about what happened and why such things are wrong. Model a better way of handling such situations to your child.
Talk to your child about different social graces and expectations and practice different scenarios. Having good manners means modeling and practicing them at home.
If your child is becoming the classroom tattletale, you need to talk to your child about the types of behaviors that require telling an adult and what situations are things that need not be told but rather handled. Explain that little issues like not sharing can crop up, but hitting or doing something dangerous are always things that a teacher needs to know.
Embarrassing habits, behaviors or issues can be a problem in preschool and can develop into a disaster if mishandled. If your child has an immature bladder, has a medical issue that must be handled during school hours or has a disability that may be physical or perhaps invisible such as autism, it can create a distance between her and the other classmates. Talk to your child's teacher about your child's issues and needs and develop a game plan for the classroom to enable your child to maintain as much independence and dignity as possible without making the child feel like an outcast.
Fielding the dreaded call from the school is nerve wracking. Listen with an open mind, don't be in a hurry to excuse, defend or attack any one's behavior. Listen with the intent to fully understand the problem and then discuss the situation recognizing your role as a problem solver. Consider yourself part of your child's educational team, because, you are indeed just that. Advocate for your child but don't do so with a threatening or menacing tone. Presenting your viewpoint in a balanced and friendly, but firm manner will go far in de-escalating any negative situations.
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