The Answers to Parents

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All in one place for the first time, parents can find answers to the many questions that come up all through a childhood.



The Answers to Parents Most Common Questions


How should I prepare my two- to tour-year-old for day care or nursery school?

When a child begins day care or nursery school, she and her family face the issues of separation and independence. A four- or five-year-old will probably go off without much difficulty, but many children under three have a hard time leaving their parents. Parents can make the transition from home a little easier if they talk to their child about what will be happening and patiently reassure her.

You can begin preparing your child several weeks before her new program starts. If she previously went with you to visit the school or center, remind her of what she saw: “Remember the blocks and puzzles you played with there?” If she’s never seen the school, describe the building, the toys, and the activities. Let her know about snacks, lunch, and naps, and reassure her that the school has bathrooms and places for her coat and other belongings. Mention the name of someone she knows who will be in the program with her; if she doesn’t know anyone in the school; tell her there will be many other children her age there. If you know who your child’s teachers will be, tell her their names.

If your child is under two, you won’t be able fully to prepare her for nursery school or day care because she won’t understand much of what you tell her, although you can still describe whatever you think will interest her. She will basically have to experience the new program and the separation firsthand. You and your child’s caretakers will have to be understanding and nurturing as she adjusts in the early weeks of school, and you may have to be flexible about your own schedule so you can take her home early if necessary.

On the first day of school, before you leave home, talk to her about the separation that’s coming: “After we get to the classroom, I’ll stay for a few minutes and then say good-bye.” Tell her what time you’ll be coming back and what your driving arrangements will be. If she’ll be in a car pool, tell her who will drive. For the first few days of school you may want to do the driving yourself to help her adjust to her new situation.

Be patient as you say good-bye to her the first few days. Many children, especially those under three years old, have a difficult time leaving their parents, particularly if the program lasts a full day. Your child may want to say good-bye several times, or she may cry. Don’t threaten her or say, “Be good and stop crying,” or, “Be a big girl.” She needs support, not pressure. You might be able to eliminate some of her anxiety by letting her bring along a favorite toy or blanket. Try arriving at school fifteen minutes early so you can spend more time with her before you go. Or give her a special little treat when she gets in the car or a “love” note or picture to carry into school with her.

You should not try to sneak out of the school without saying good bye, even if you think such an action might keep your child from crying. Eventually she will notice you’re gone and may become frightened and upset. Although it’s painful to see your child cry as you go, you should still say good-bye to her. You might feel better if you wait outside the classroom door, listening for a few minutes until she’s calmed down.

As time goes by, she may continue to have trouble leaving you at the school door. Children two years old and younger don’t understand that you’ll return, no matter how often you tell them. This may make them anxious in the morning and off and on throughout the day. Consult with your child’s teachers. They may be able to help by giving your child extra comfort and reassurance, and getting her involved in activities.

It might take your child several weeks to adjust to school or day care, and during that time you may see some changes in behavior such as bed-wetting, nightmares, decreased appetite, more frequent whining, and reluctance to go to school. Getting used to a program is more difficult for some children than others, but most children are affected in some way during the early days of a new situation. You’ll have to be patient and understanding as your child adjusts.

If, after several months, she’s still showing behavioral changes and seems unhappy, talk to her teachers and stay to observe the program. You might even drop in unexpectedly to see how she is, and to try to find out why she isn’t enjoying herself. As you watch her, ask yourself the following questions: does she seem to have friends she enjoys? Is she one of the youngest children in the group? (If she is, she may feel less confident and accepted.) Is she getting enough attention from her teachers? If the program seems inappropriate, take her out and find a better one. But if you’re unsure, wait a bit before making your decision. Your child just might need an extra amount of understanding and time to adjust to day care or school.






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