by Jenni Evans, The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital
Transitions are often hard for children—and for many adults. Here are some ideas to smooth things out for your preschooler.
“Doorway conversations” at drop-off and pick-up are the worst times to pass anything but the most basic information. Develop a system of communication that works for you and for the school personnel. Set up a time to meet or talk on the phone when you’re not distracted or rushed.
Once you have each other’s attention, be sure to listen as much as you talk. Remember that the group environment is different from the home environment. You chose this center for a reason, so take the time to hear the professional’s opinion and advice. You may learn something that changes your perspective.
Be your child’s advocate. There will be bumps and compromises in his life. You can’t save him from every conflict or frustration, but it is up to you to make sure he is being treated respectfully and fairly and that he is in a safe and nurturing environment that is age appropriate and engaging.
Challenging behavior at school
As the newness wears off, your child may start to feel like some of the aspects of this arrangement just don’t sit well with her. Maybe the group activities are too demanding, too long, or too exciting. Maybe she’s not sure how to get the attention of her classmates or teachers during center-time. The result may be hitting, grabbing or biting; yelling or name-calling; or even withdrawal and refusing to participate.
Whatever the challenge, if it is a school behavior that you are not seeing at home, let the school respond. Though it is important that they let you know how things are going, they (and you) should not expect the behavior to be disciplined at home. Instead, be your child’s best resource and cheerleader.
First, listen to her feelings (a.k.a., her side of the story). Then, at a time when she is calm, think together about how she might respond to the situation differently next time. Help her find new ways handle interactions at school and be empathetic as she works them out.
Challenging behavior at home
Even for children who love everything about it, school or group care takes a lot out of them. If you are seeing more short tempers, “sass” or tantrums, try giving your child a little extra attention instead of constantly correcting unwanted behavior. Provide healthy meals and snacks and make sure they’re getting plenty of rest so they feel well enough to face the developmental demands of being a young child balancing “work” and family. Be sure to take a few minutes to reconnect with your child each day before rushing to go to the next activity or task.
Sometimes, a parent feels like they’ve tried everything and the situation just isn’t working. That’s possible. For ideas, more tips, or just a chance to talk it through, contact The Parenting Center. We can help.