Parents' Preschool Jitters
Your little one starting the routine of pencils, books and lunch boxes from next week? Halabol caught up with a few nervous excited parents as well as those who have been there and done that to help you and your child sail through this period, that can be emotional and stressful on both parent and preschooler.
Come April, it is a fresh beginning for school children all over India; A new class, a new teacher, new books, possibly new friends and a step towards knowing more, growing bigger and feeling older. While this is a period of full-blown excitement for most children, it can also be a little stressful for those, whose environment will see a 360-degree shift. This naturally refers to preschoolers, for whom, life will never be its same fluidity ever again. Perhaps, even more than the children, it is a particularly difficult period for the parents of the preschoolers who will have to face the inevitable reality of separation from their child and hence, are worried about his/her independent skills to function with respect to comfort, security, following instructions, potty training and social skills.
That first day of school, of course, is not as novel an idea as it used to be two decades back where a child directly started with the colorful numbers and alphabets in Nursery. The trend of playschools has long caught on for reasons both circumstantial and progressive and in effect, has helped in the later adjustment of the child in newer settings.
Kiran Manral, Author of The Reluctant Detective & Mother to an 8 year old, sent her son to a playschool before he started formal schooling. “It helped him socialize with other children given that we then stayed in a place which had no other children his age on the premises. He cried for the first couple of days and then refused to come home the next day. So he did settle in quite well.”
As per a three year and 2 million pound research project in the UK, children who were inducted early into formal child care settings scored higher in developmental assessments than those who remained at home until they were older. The period from biirth to age 5 is considered as the Early Years Foundation Stage and the assessments at the end of reception class when pupils were five looked at their personal and social development as well as their language, maths and creative skills.
But experts also warn of the possibility flipside for many children who don’t throw up a fuss in the initial days and in fact, excitedly look forward to it. However, a few days or weeks down the line when the novelty wears off, these children might regress back to an earlier stage and find it difficult to accept and sustain the routine as the honeymoon period, created by the change in the environment, is over.
These exact words were the concern for Daisy Mate Munluo as she readies her 3-year-old son to start preparatory school next week. “Even when he started play school, he was very excited in the first week following which it was hard for him to let go of me.” Hailing from Manipur, a state in the North East part of India, she also expressed a sense of worry over other children making him feel different. “These kids can really surprise you. They asked me the other day, “why are your eyes so small?” I know they asked out of an innocent curiosity but I hope because no one looks like him in his class, he doesn’t get socially ostracized in any way”.
Preeti Dutta, a former Play School Teacher, said that it takes an average period of 10 to 15 days for children to settle down in a classroom set up. Preeti’s first child directly went to preschool at 3 years of age and took almost a month to adjust in the environment. “I wasn’t very fond of the idea of sending him at 3 when I myself started at the age of four.”
A lot of debate has been happening around the right age that a child should be sent for formal schooling, which usually varies from 2+ to 5 years of age. What any child psychologist would tell you is that development occurs at different milestones (that too, at different ages) for different kids. So while the average age is 3 plus, it really depends on your child’s developmental attainment (motor functions, sensory functions, language, potty training, social skills), health, willingness and comfort level.
Speaking about the concerns of parents in their preschooler’s initial days, Preeti shared, “Most parents expect teachers to give a lot of personal attention to their child and to make him or her comfortable. They tell us not to scold them or be rude to them. “. While the initial focus for a preschooler should be fun, interactive and cooperative games, stories, sports and rhymes, Preeti says many parents are as much concerned about their child immediately grasping the ABC’s and the 1-2-3’s. “Many parents ask us how are we rating their child’s performance and standing in class. Typical question goes, “Is he average or will he become something in life?” One of them even expected his child to be able to spell his name. They say we’re not bothered about if he’s sharing or being friendly with classmates but if he or she’s doing well in studies.”
Daisy thankfully offers a heartening contradiction to this “Indian Parenting” stereotype. She said, “The schools today are not the same as the ones we used to go to in terms of the lessons of, not religion but, moral science lessons of how to treat your parents, elders, teachers, friends, neighbours and all those values of love and respect. Today the motivation seems kind of worldly and competitive towards who grasps the maximum knowledge or skill the fastest. The fact that my son will be exposed to all this, I am just dealing with the fact that he will change and bring home all these acquired information but at the same time, he shouldn’t lose out on the values we imbibed in him”.
Vidyut blogs about her trials and tribulations of raising her son - http://nisarga.info/unschooling-nisarga/
Vidyut Gore Kale is a stay-at-home mom and an Internet Blogger, who does not advocates formal schooling for her son. She reasoned, “I never wanted to have a child and send to school - even before I had kids. I have a deep dislike for our education system. I think it does a lot of harm and far less good than claimed”. In a blog post on the reasons why she chose not send her son to school she writes, “Schools teach us to quantify people based on a standard scale. We don’t really need much of what we learn in school, and most of what we need to learn in life, we learn from life. Yet, kids start believing themselves as clever or dumb based on what some ambitious bunch of teachers decides as life skills. The education system has no real way to impart necessary knowledge. One may argue that math, science, history, language, etc. are the foundations of learning. One may argue that they are certainly not. The fact is that very few schools actually prepare you for life. With calculators all around, I see no reason for my son to waste some of the prime developmental years of his life learning methods to divide 679676876 by 5875. Been there, done that, and never done it in real life. Always used a calculator – on my phone, my computer…”
Aarti Mohan, Editor of The Alternative whose daughter (Lasya, shown in main image) joined preschool last year, agrees to some extent with the alternative schooling approaches and learning styles that are forcefully growing due to the disenchantment in the current education system. However, she points out two important concerns. "Homeschooling requires a tremendous amount of discipline, time investment and rigour from a person and this responsibility that is usually shared in a school system by many members of a faculty, can be overwhelming on one person. Moreover, you can’t simulate a school atmosphere in a home setting. Going to school is also a fun part of learning and growing up and I don’t think I can replace that peer learning experience for my daughter”.
While perspectives of different parents may vary towards schooling and education, is important for parents to keep in mind the overall development of their children without making one aspect, whether it be creativity or social skills, the overall focus in the child’s growth. Been there and done that, Kiran and Preeti offer some good advise in preparing your child and yourself for the first few days.
Kiran, “Make sure the school has shorter hours to start with in the first week. Ideally, the first week should have the parents sit in with the kids. Let your child get used to being without you, go away for an hour or half an hour leaving him or her with a trusted relative, friend or help. This will reduce separation anxiety. Always tell your child you will be back at this time to collect him/her. Prepare your child for school by building it up--make it feel like a grown up thing to do like by letting him/her choose a nice bag/waterbottle, etc.”
Preeti, “As a parent, one needs to be emotionally more strong as the child is in a very vulnerable and crucial stage of his or her life. Don’t expect too much out of them. It is only important for them to get comfortable right now so don’t go into the syllabus and the bookish learning as yet”.
Thumbnail image is copyrighted and credited to Sindhuja P.
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