Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Difficult In-Home Daycare to Preschool Transition

I have two daughters, the oldest is 3yrs 7mos, the youngest will be two next month. Since four months old, both of my daughters have been in a very loving and nurturing in-home daycare for about 45 hours per week with three other children. (8-5 M-F). Both my husband and I work full time outside of the home and I took maternity leave to be with both of them for the first four months of their life.
Due to the need for some increased flexibility in our drop-off/pick-up times and a back-up if the daycare provider gets ill, as well as the need for my eldest daughter to attend preschool at some point to prepare her for Kindergarten, I started the search for a local preschool/daycare center to transition my children into. A brand-new school opened up a few months ago that was beautiful and seemed to have a great ownership/staff and learning method that I liked (it is Reggio Emilia-inspired and all teachers are degreed and have an early childhood development background). I was very excited to learn of them and knowing that many preschools in the area are "fully booked" and can't accept any more students, I felt it was important to get in when I could. In addition, they also have a private kindergarten, which I would have my daughters attend.

While initially I was going to have the girls start in the school in June, neither I or her previous provider were emotionally ready for the transition. As such, they started on June 30th and the first day went pretty well. My eldest is a very bright child and was an early talker, but is one that is shy and rather slow to warm up to people. My younger child is much more outgoing and active, not the talker her sister is and more temperamental, but can still warm up to others much faster than her sister.

My problem is that we're at the start of week three and my eldest is still crying at the thought of going to this new school. She asks every morning if she's going and when that's confirmed, huge alligator tears start streaming down her face and her lip quivers. She never tantrums, she just is genuinely SAD. It breaks my heart and I just don't know what to do. She has started to show signs of regression at home, as well. She has been more angry, not listening to directions, more demanding, etc. She has always been quite well behaved and generally happy and I can see that this is taking a toll.

It is so important to me that they have love (both physical and emotional) from their caregivers and the one teacher that my eldest has started to bond with is not on vacation for two weeks. I'm afraid that this will be a real setback. In addition, once this teacher returns, she'll be back a week and then the school will be closed for a week. At that time, we'll have her back with her previous daycare provider. I'm beginning to think that this amount of instability prior to the start of the "true" preschool year in September will lead to a dismal failure for her and might set her back even more. She used to write her name rather well and would draw happy faces and primitive drawings of animals/flowers (happy stuff). Now, every day she makes me cards, but they only have multi-colored scribbles. I'm not sure if this is to be expected since there's not much teacher/child interaction or a sign of a bigger issue.

Also, this morning my husband dropped off my youngest and had to leave for a few minutes to go back to the car to get some items he left behind. He heard her start to cry when he left and when he came back, she was still standing in the room crying without comforting by either of the teachers that were standing in the room (the other children were outside playing and our daughter was the only one in the class at the time). This is disconcerting, as well, since one of the reasons I picked the school was that I understood each employee to be a loving, nurturing caregiver. This instance doesn't seem to reflect that. The teacher said that they were busy readying the room for the day and they were on their way over to help her, but I question if that was really true...

I think at this point that I'm starting to rethink whether or not this was a good decision for my children (leaving in-home daycare for a "traditional" preschool). I have always hated the idea of my children being lost in the shuffle & I'm not sure if I need to just realize that they'll be okay or if I need to reevaluate my decision and send them back to where I know they are both loved and nurtured...

I always felt that the only place where my eldest had setbacks was in larger groups of people and that by placing her in that environment for preschool, I'd help her. I can't help but think that her personality just may not be suited for it, though. Is there any assistance you can offer, either with advice or consoling? I've been in tears many times over the past weeks over this and only want what's best for my children in the long term.

Thank you!

Dear Marcelle:

This may offend you however, this is a very long description of what is happening with your girls and what you think about it. Nowhere do I see that you asked them what was wrong? What was their answers?

It maybe a really great school and still they will have adjustments when their are major changes in their world and they are not included in the process. Their entire routine is probably different and children depend upon routines to tell them life is okay, that they are safe and secure. They do not have a real sense of time until they are about 7 or 8 years old and therefore ROUTINES are their WORLD.

You maybe totally right about your perceptions however, sometimes we smother our children and hold them back by not giving them time to adjust to their new environment. I would not like to see you yank them back to their old school and further change their lives without them first having a chance to see if the new school is really for them without their fears. Life doesn't offer us the opportunity of going backwards without repercussions.

By all means keep in contact with the teachers and voice your concerns and also realize that with every decisions there comes compromises and trade offs. If your children are getting their nurturing from you and your husband this is the most important nurturing there is to a child. Huggy teachers are nice but not necessarily the most important. Give the teachers a chance rather than making a snap decision on one moment. If you still feel uncomfortable in a couple of weeks (I would give them time to get past the begriming of the year, say a minimum of six weeks) then by all means do what you think is best for them. Children learn so much from us about how to deal with the world. They learn to stick with things and develop discipline to finish what they started or they learn that there are important times to change ones mind and reverse their decisions when it is necessary. Only you know what lesson is best here as their mother.

Either way I do encourage you to support them in expressing their feelings more about what is happening around them. Don't misunderstand I am not saying children have to run things, only be allowed to express how they feel about what is being decided. There are books that deal with grief and changes and adjustments from a feeling perspective. Even though they are young they have feelings about changes. They can understand the books. Work with them to identify their feelings and find words for them. There are feeling books and charts to assist you both.

Remember to figure out when something is about your discomfort or theirs... This is as difficult for you and your husband as it is on them. You all need some special time when you make changes.

They are fortunate to have parents who are so passionate about their care and concern for them!

M Kay Keller

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