Transitions can be difficult, especially those as big as heading off to preschool for the first time. As your child adjusts to her new routine, you may see new behaviors from her. We reached out to Rebecca Zalit, the director of Tender Years Child Development Center in Camp Hill, and two lead teachers from the Carlisle Community Nursery School, Jennifer Lambert and Tammy Frutsche, to find out what to do about a variety of possible scenarios.
Problem: Your child is having more meltdowns in the late afternoon now that she’s in preschool. What’s going on?
Jenifer Lambert: Your child is experiencing a brand new situation. They spend the school day working hard to be on their best behavior, learning and experiencing new friendships. They hold it together all day. This takes a lot of their energy. When they get home, they are exhausted, and this is when their meltdowns occur. They feel comfortable with their parents to take a break from holding it all together.
Problem: You’re concerned that your child may a bit much to handle at times. How often should you be in touch with his teachers to make sure he’s OK and they’re OK?
Lambert: It’s normal for a parent to worry that their child is not behaving or is causing issues in a classroom. It’s perfectly okay to reach out to your child’s teacher to let them know your concerns. Communicating early on with your child’s teacher can be helpful in heading off any issues your child might be having. One important thing to know about preschool is that preschool is where children learn what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable for school.
Problem: Your potty-trained child came home wearing his change of clothes – for the second time in one week. Should you be concerned about accidents at school?
Rebecca Zalit: Starting in a new school or classroom can be a big transition for some students! Accidents can occur with potty-trained children for a variety of reasons: they were busy in play with their new friends and toys, they were highly engaged in group activities, they were unsure of how to use the bathroom in their new classroom or were nervous to let the teacher know they need to use the bathroom. It is important find out the details about the accidents that occurred and work with your child’s teacher to find a solution, if one is needed. You can introduce your child to the bathroom that the classroom uses and, speak with the teacher and your child about what they need to do when they have to use the bathroom.
Problem: The teacher tells you that your son was bitten by a classmate in school today. What will the school do to help it from happening again?
Zalit: When a child is having a behavior difficulty in the classroom, such as biting, programs should have procedures in place to address these behaviors. Commonly, teachers will redirect children from negative behavior, reassess the classroom environment, appropriateness of activities, and supervision. Teachers document any disruptive behavior to monitor patterns that may be occurring and give written copies of the behavior to the parents or guardians. Programs also use screening tools with parents and can refer parents for professional consultation if needed. Open communication with your teachers and program administrators is key; while confidentiality must be maintained, staff are able to disclose behavior policies, classroom procedures, and plans to adjust the classroom environment if needed.
Problem: You pack healthy lunches, and half the food comes back with your child at the end of the day. How can you know she’s not starving?
Tammy Frutsche: We encourage them to eat (during lunch bunch), and most of them do a great job. However, sometimes they get distracted by what their neighbor has for lunch, they want to eat quickly so that they can play, there’s too much food, and so on. We always eat with them, so hopefully we are setting a good example. Also, we have snack about an hour and a half before lunch so they may not be that hungry. They will not starve!
Problem: Your child doesn’t seem to like her teacher. What should you do?
Zalit: It’s important to have a conversation with your child – why don’t they seem to like the teacher? Sometimes it is difficult to transition to a classroom environment with new schedules and rules. Oftentimes, the first few weeks of the school year are spent focusing on those schedules and rules – could this be affecting your child’s perception of their teacher? Model positive interactions with the teacher for your child; at drop off and pick up times, make time to greet your child’s teacher with your child and have a brief conversation about what’s in store for your child’s day at school, or how your child’s day went. Be sure your child knows that you and her teacher are working together to make school a great experience. If your child still doesn’t seem to like their teacher, schedule a time for you to talk with the teacher to help find a solution; ask for help understanding what’s bothering your child.