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Our Blog: August 9, 2011

Saying Good-bye: Secrets I learned from my kids’ preschool teachers

I may be a child psychologist, but when it comes to dropping my child off at preschool for the first time, I’m just a regular parent — one who worries, worries, worries. Have I prepared my child for this day? What if he or she is not ready? And of course — what if I cry too? (It’s happened more than once, I admit!)

At first, I took the easy way out and made my husband handle the dreaded first day of school drop-off. When I couldn’t get away with that anymore, I made another rookie mistake — acting cool and confident with my child’s teacher, instead of asking her for support. I didn’t want to admit I needed help in getting my child (and me!) ready for that huge — and sometimes stressful — separation.  After the second (or third) kid, I finally realized that I should use our teachers as the expert resources they are.  I made sure to build a parent-teacher partnership — BEFORE that jittery first day. It made saying good-bye so much easier — for both of us.

Separation is hard for little kids, since we’re their lifeline.  But if you show them that you and their teacher are partners, you’ll go a long way toward building trust and confidence in your child’s new classroom.  Teachers and parents together make a powerful team that will boost your child’s success — both academically and emotionally.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated these insider tips for building a strong relationship with your kid’s teacher:

Introduce yourself BEFORE the school year starts. Show the teacher that you value their time — and your child’s adjustment — by arranging to meet briefly before the first day of school. Learn their preferences for how to handle good-byes, and talk through how you expect your child to react. Share the info with your child. Having a plan in place beforehand will decrease everyone’s anxiety.

Show Respect! Show that you value them by being on time for drop-off and pickup, completing paperwork and other tasks, and bringing in items on their “wish list.” They’ll notice.

When the big day comes, DON’T sneak away. Yes, your child may be happily playing with friends at first. But they’ll eventually notice you’ve gone – without telling them – shattering their fragile trust in the new classroom. Then their teacher is left trying to reassure them – not a great way to get on the teacher’s good side.

Present a unified front. Show your child that you and their teacher are on the same team – greet them every day, discuss the classrooms activities, and have a positive rapport with them.  Make sure your child sees the two of you talking and working together — it will make an impression on them. Knowing you two are a “team” builds their trust – and helps him or her feel safe and comfy at school.

A licensed child psychologist and busy mother of four, Dr. Heather partners with Learning Care Group to provide valuable — and always humorous — insights on our blog.

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.