Anderson the Music Man
Helping Kids Learn
Selecting Movies for Kids
Becoming a New Dad
Alice Hoffman Kids' Books
Kingsley on "Holland"
Monday Night Art Class
The Sisters Yankowitz
Istar on Harry Potter
Wisdom on Starting Preschool -- and Much More
Here's what Nancy
Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum
shared with CreativeParents.com
The authors of the excellent book, Practical Wisdom
for Parents, talk to CreativeParents.com about the challenges of
starting preschool, parent worries, and the school application process.
Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum served as the co-directors of the well-respected
92nd Street Y Nursery School and have a combined 60 years of experience
CreativeParents.com: How can parents help children
adjust to starting school?
Ellen Birnbaum: Routines at home provide a sense of what
school is like. It also helps to visit the school, learn the names of
the teachers and if possible, have a photo of them. Before school starts
we help the parents and children become familiar with what to expect on
the first days of school. Reading books about starting school, like My
First Day of Nursery School by Becky Edwards.
CreativeParents.com: In Practical Wisdom
for Parents you describe several different transition styles of preschoolers
when they adjust to school. What are some of the common threads when the
separation goes well.
Nancy Schulman: The separation goes well when the parent
is relaxed and confident. It sends a positive message to the child, and
helps transfer trust to the teacher. We give parents as much information
as possible to help them know what to anticipate. Parents need to know
that it’s okay for a child to cry a bit -- that’s one of the
ways young children express their feelings. Teachers know how to comfort
them, and expect it to take time to adjust. Things will be okay. If separation
is difficult, good communication the school will help.
There are some approaches we’ve found work well. Be sure to be on
time for arrival and dismissal. Make sure to greet the teachers in a friendly
way, and please, turn off your cell phone. Say a short goodbye to your
child, but don’t wait for a response. And don’t feel guilty.
You are giving your child a gift.
Ellen Birnbaum: There are things you can do at home,
too. It helps to have a calm, unhurried bedtime and morning routine so
everyone gets to school feeling calm.
CreativeParents.com: Do you see parents worrying more now than
in the past?
Ellen Birnbaum: Yes, they worry about their children’s
safety and are anxious about their children succeeding. September 11 created
a lot of underlying anxiety for parents. Also, there are now so many do’s
and don’ts about health risks. Extended families aren’t around
as much, so the grandparents may not be available to provide support and
reassurance. Parents working long hours often feel guilty and stressed
and expect a lot of themselves.
CreativeParents.com: How do you provide reassurance?
Nancy Schulman: We tell parents that raising children
is not a sprint but a marathon. They don’t have to be perfect. There
are only two things that are most important – loving your child
for who he is and setting limits.
Ellen Birnbaum: You don’t need to give your kids
everything at once. Wait for them to be ready. They don’t need so
much so early. They need time with you and time to play.
CreativeParents.com: How do you convey to parents
that what they do is more powerful than what they say?
Nancy Schulman: Kids are always watching and listening.
They want their parents’ approval and they like to imitate what
parents do. As adults we’re often not aware of our own behavior,
or the example we’re setting.
CreativeParents.com: How do you feel about “helicopter
Nancy Schulman: It’s problematic when parents hover
too closely because it inhibits children’s ability to be independent
and solve problems for themselves. Going to preschool gives children the
opportunity to learn how to be an individual apart from the parent and
learn to be part of a group. Cell phones have contributed to parents feeling
the need to always be in touch.
CreativeParents.com: What about all the specialists
Ellen Birnbaum: Children don’t need to be over
programmed with too many organized activities. They thrive on downtime,
especially when they’ve been in school all day. For instance, instead
of cooking classes children can cook with their parents.
Nancy Schulman: Parents are feeling pressured to have
their children master skills at an earlier age. If children are doing
too many of these classes, they get burnt out and lose interest later
on. We suggest no more than one activity for 3 year olds and 2 for 4 year
olds. Children get very tired and need time for play.
CreativeParents.com: You deal with the school application process
each year. How can a parent explain the interview to a child?
Nancy Schulman: Even if the parents are loaded with anticipation
and anxiety, for the children it’s a chance to play. Parents can
describe what the experience will be like – for instance mentioning
that there will be blocks and puzzles. Be positive. Look happy and interested.
Kids will pick up your vibe.
Ellen Birnbaum: Also, don’t speak for your child
– let your child speak for himself. Trust that the professionals
know that children have different styles, and that there are some who
need time to warm up.
CreativeParents.com: With preschool spots so tight in
your school and other schools, how can parents keep from taking “rejection”
Nancy Schulman: It’s really hard. This is often
the first time the parent can’t control an outcome. But it isn’t
rejection. Parents need to understand that there are lots of wonderful
schools and not invest so much in any one place. They need to keep in
mind that schools give siblings priority and schools try to find a balance
between boys and girls. It can be a painful process and there are many
wonderful schools that can provide an excellent first school experience.
We remind parents that they are the most important influence in their
CreativeParents.com: What do you find impresses you in a parent?
Ellen Birnbaum: We’re impressed with the parent
who is supportive of a child’s being himself. It’s great to
see the parent who accepts a child as he is, and doesn’t have unrealistic
expectations. A parent who encourages a child’s independence by
teaching self-help skills and setting clear limits is the most impressive.
Find out more
by going to practicalwisdomforparents.com
us. Tell us about your experiences.
2008 Dr. Istar Schwager
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