Perenting advice: starting preschool

I feel a bit strange asking this here but there seem to be a lot of great parents on here and I need some serious reassurance.

A little background: DD Amanda is three. For the past two years, my mom and dad have watched her during the day while I work. For the most part, this has been a wonderful arrangement although I am realizing that our parenting styles are so different and I disagree with a lot of the way they handle things. They are very quick to cater to her every want and spoil her to death. I know, that’s what Grandparents are supposed to do, however that doesn’t work when the grandparents are primary caregivers.

So anyhow for many reasons, the biggest of which is encouraging social interaction, we decided to put her in preschool for three full days per week. She started this Monday. The first day went remarkably well but the next two were a different story. She cried for me most of the day. They have webcams in the classroom and I sat glued to my computer watching her and crying right along with her.

I know this is all very new for her and a huge change but I’m not handling it very well. She doesn’t play with the other children and doesn’t really participate at all. When she’s not crying she’s just standing there looking very sad and lost. :frowning:

The hardest part in all this is the complete change in her temperment. She cries at the drop of a hat. She’s become aggressive and defiant. She’s crying at night and was even grinding her teeth last night. I can see how stressful this change is for her.

I know that this is a huge change for her and that most of this behavior is probably normal but it’s making me question the whole preschool thing and putting so much doubt in my mind.

If you’ve been there and done that, please tell me it gets better. I truly feel that she would benefit so much from preschool but the transition is just about killing me.

There are people on here that are going to give you much better advice, but I’ll give it a shot.
First, I think that if she is being spoiled and catered to every day by her grandparents you are doing the right thing by getting her out and socializing more.
I also think it is a good idea to slide her into it, not FIVE DAYS OF DAYCARE all of a sudden. Is it possible to go 8 - 11 at first and gradually move her in to a full day? Is there a reason you chose three days? Many preschools (if they have a school type schedule) will have “school” for the first half of the day for four consecutive days. At my son’s school Monday was a play day, and Friday was watered down as well. Do you think she had a play day Monday and then was pushed into a more school-type situation where she felt totally lost (given, three year old preschool isn’t exactly calculus, but still)

I would say that you have a three year old that’s a bit spoiled and has been thrust into a situation where the teachers don’t take much crap. I would ease her in a little more, talk her through the process of getting ready, let her know what was coming. She may not understand all of it, but at least she will get used to the routine. And see about how they do their curriculum - make sure she’s not always lost because she missed a day.

Finally - you can pretty much do this now or in kindergarten/first grade, where the teachers really expect much less crying. On my son’s first day of kindergarten (two weeks ago!) you could tell which kids had been to daycare and which hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, none of the teachers were mean or short-tempered, but you could tell they did expect to get on with the day. There were kids there that absolutely could not handle being away from Mom. They had it really rough. Better to move to a very short school schedule now and get her ready.

The webcam - stop torturing yourself. At the beginning of the day set yourself some times that you will access it, stick to those times and then shut it off. If you are that upset by the end of the day, how is she supposed to know how to react? She’ll take her cues from you. Get super silly excited about school and hopefully she will too, eventually.

Finally - are the grandparents unhappy with this arrangement? If they are you may want to make sure they aren’t inadvertently giving her bad vibes about school.

I need to add: when I talk about the kids on the first day of kindergarten, I would be willing to bet that some of the best adjusted kids had never been to a daycare, and some of the cryers were daycare kids. Didn’t mean to paint with that broad a brush. I just think the daycare kids had a more “institutionalized” look - god that sounds horrible, but I mean they seemed to know instinctively to walk on the painted lines and look for the teacher’s name, and what “red, yellow, green light” meant (the behavior code).
So please don’t take what I say in the light of poo-pooing SAHMs!!

ShelliBean, thanks for the advice :slight_smile:

Yes, grandparents are unhappy with the arrangement because they feel it is too early for her to be going to school and feel she is not ready. This does make things more difficult.

Her day is quite structured but most of the day is spent playing. They have short periods of “circle time” and of course set time for snacks, naps, etc. Each day is the same.

I thought about starting with half days but the preschool teachers said that this just makes the whole fitting in process take longer.

I wish I knew exactly what to do!

I would go for half-days, at first probably twice a week. No 3-yo needs to be at school all day long; that’s a tremendous amount of time for them and it probably seems like forever to her. The teacher is probably thinking of a sink-or-swim approach, and yes, she might adjust faster, but she might also hate school. I don’t really think it’s fair on a little child to throw them into such a stressful situation for such a long period of time at first. I bet if you took her two mornings a week, it would soon be a treat to go, and then you could add more time as she gets happier.

Three is a fine age to start preschool, but I really think that all day is too much. I would stop worrying about how she’s going to “fit in”–yes, it might take longer for her to know the other kids well, but they’re 3, they’re barely into playing together anyway, she has plenty of time–and go for the mornings.

Good luck sorting this one out.

Oh, another bit of advice: when you’re thinking about difficult decisions like this, it’s frequently a good idea to go with your gut. Your mommy-brain often knows more than you do, what with all your worrying about what people will think and other irrelevancies. So, sit still and think quietly about your options. Which ones make you tense up inside? Which one makes you feel a burst of relief? That’s the one you should make happen, IME. (I lifted that from Anne Lamott, btw. It’s worked well for me, YMMV!)

My kids were home with Mommy and started preschool at age two, two half days per week. At three, my son went three half days a week, and (ready for it?) at four, he went four half days a week and then kindergarten for 5 full days. My daughter was a bit different cause she went to a public preschool program for some speech therapy. Anyway, my point is that they gradually got used to school and really liked it a lot. This might be a good idea for your daughter as it is a big change from the grandparents spoiling her constantly. Or, you could just tough it out and I think the little tyke will get used to it. It just makes your like harder for a time.

Because both my wife and myself work full time, my daughter has been in daycare since she was 7 weeks old. Now, this might sound cruel, but I believe it has really helped her in the long run (she is 3 and half now). She has her moments when she would rather stay home with us (hell, I would rather stay home than go to work too). But you can really see the difference when we get into public places where children mingle (aka the park). The children who haven’t been around a bunch of other children have no social skills. They don’t share or know how to take turns. Now, I am not saying ALL stay at home children are like this, but I have seen more than a few. My daughter knows how to stand in line and wait for her turn to use the slide for example. She has no problems talking to other children and makes friends easily. When we enrolled her in dance class, there were two other girls there that really hadn’t been out of Mom’s control ever. They were scared to death to stay in the room with the instructor and wouldn’t talk or play with the other kids.

Sending your daughter to school will be harder on you than it will be on her.

Every child is different, and I realize that every parental work situation is different.

I agree with dangermom about the half-days.
Three is not at all too young to begin preschool. I think it is good for Amanda to socialize with her peers, experience circle time, take a bit of a break from the constantly doting grandparents.
However, all day is a lo-ong time. I think that if you have any choice at all in the matter, half days are preferable. If you do not have a choice, so be it. She will eventually adjust.

I am there, and I am doing it, and it does get better - I’m a preschool teacher.
If you decide to switch to half-days, I’d go with four or five half days a week. IMO, it sounds like she needs the socialization, and really needs to get away from the grandparents. If they’re spoiling her and catering to her every whim, it’s only going to hurt her in the long run.

We had a child in our class last year (I teach four-year-olds) who had been with his grandparents as daycare providers every day up till that point. Both parents worked full-time, and the grandparents were willing to do it. Suddenly, the parents realized their kid was four, would be in kindergarten the following year and had no other friends or social skills. He just hung out with the grandparents all day, and when he was at home, he was with his parents. They never tried to make friends with kids in the neighborhood for some reason.
He was a mess - no concept of sharing, taking turns, personal space, or boundaries. He cried at the drop of a hat. It sounds awful, but he was one kid I just never really warmed up to. He drove us nuts.

Of course it’s a big change for her, but she’ll get used to it. Give her more time - it’s only been a week.
If the teachers understand that she’s been with the grandparents for the first three years, they should help ease her in, and help her figure out what’s what. Hopefully, they’ll help her find some friends.
Once she gets used to the schedule and makes some friends, she’ll love it. Find out from the teacher who she seems to buddy up with and have some friends over for play dates.
Ask her each day what she did, even if you already know.
“What kind of story did you hear? Did you paint? What color play-dough did you play with?”
This is the age where they really need to learn how to make friends and learn the social skills. Just give her more time. Once she settles in and finds out that school can be fun, she’ll look foward to going.

I’m going to have to disagree with BiblioCat, although generally we agree in parenting threads…

I think she’s not ready. Some kids just aren’t at three. At the very least, try her on halfdays. Even better, can Grandma or Grandpa take her to a play group a few times a week? Getting to know other kids with a familiar adult around might be an easier way for her to get socialization that, I agree, she needs to have before kindergarten. After a few weeks of playgroup under a familiar grown-ups eyes, then try preschool again.

Three days of crying all day (if that’s indeed what’s happening) is just too much. Do you remember how long a day was when you were a kid? At least a week in “grown-up time”. She probably doesn’t even remember a time before preschool - in her mind right now, she’s “always” been suffering.

The good news is that three happy days quickly turn into “always”, and no long-term damage will be done.

That said, kids do often cry when you drop them off at school. But it should only last about 10 minutes or so. Kids also act out after school. It means she knows she’s safe and you love her and she can release that tension she’s been feeling all day - just like when you get home from a day at work, you drop your purse by the front door, kick your shoes across the room and flop onto the couch (behaviors you simply wouldn’t do at work). But teeth-grinding is NOT healthy and normal, even as a reaction to stress - it’s showing you that it’s too much, and you know it.

There’s two kinds of stress for people and plants. A bit of stress makes you grow faster. It makes plants throw out new shoots, or flowers. It makes people try new ways of doing things, learning new things, growing new neurological connections. This is “stimulating stress”. With this kind of stress, you’ll see a wired kid who may be a little jittery, but is trying new things and generally putting her energy outwards. Then there’s “stifling stress”: too much stress and things shrink into themselves. Plants begin to wither and die. People begin to shut down. They retreat into themselves, or into sleep or drugs or food. The energy goes in and down until it’s just a little flicker.

Only you can determine which kind of stress this is for you and for your daughter. From the OP, I’m guessing it’s the latter.

I’m going to go with the “try half days before you toss the idea out completely” folks.

With half days, she can get used to being among her peers for a few hours, and then have the familiar adults pick her up. If she is having a difficult time, it’s not allllll dayyyyy longggg until she sees someone she feels safe and comfortable with. But how will she ever get to feeling comfortable and safe with her peers and the teachers if it’s an all-or-nothing proposition?

Once she is used to the half days and the other children, it will probably be very intriguing to her that some of them stay for full days. * Hey, what do they do in the afternoons here anyhow, and am I sure I want to miss out on that?*

My daughter was 3 when she started preschool, and was pretty clingy and scared at first. Now she is nearly hearbroken because she still has weeks and weeks to wait before it starts up again, and she misses it terribly. But she also only did half days at the start, and had grandparents picking her up.

Half days - or less intially, some kids will warm up if you drop them up for an hour on day one - 90 minutes on day two, two and an half on day three…and if you can, spend some time - like half an hour or an hour with her there. She will see that you like it there and enjoy it.

This is how our kids start. We call it 'Gradual Entry."
For the fours, the first day is half of the class (10 of them) for an hour. Then the other 10 come for an hour. The next day, all 20 of them come for 90 minutes. The third day, they all come for the full two and a half hours.
With the threes, their parents come with them for the first day. The half-class thing is drawn out over two days - they come with a parent for an hour one day, the without the next. The third day is the whole class for 90 minutes, and then the fourth day is the whole class for two and a half hours.
This is just preschool, not full-day daycare.
Maybe Amanda would be better off in a shorter preschool program, rather than a fulltime daycare?

I really think once she gets used to it, she’ll be okay.
One question - when did she turn three? Is she ‘just’ three, or is she closer to four?

BiblioCat, I think that’s a fantastic program you’ve got there, and if the OP’s program was like it, I’d agree with you that she should stick it out. I really, really like it, and I’m so glad you work for such a great place.

My suggestion of play group before preschool was really along the same lines - get them used to other kids with Mom (or Grandma or Grandpa) present before just throwing them in the deep end all alone.
So I think we don’t really disagree after all, which makes me happy. :slight_smile: I just didn’t know how your program worked. I’ve never seen one like it.

If it were me, I’d take her out of she was miserable. Life’s too short, and they’re young for such a short time. Why not let her be happy with grandma and grandpa?

I’m not saying this is right, but if it were me (and I went through it), that’s what I’d do.

We did have a co-op of about 8-10 parents and the church let us use one of the rooms for free. The mother’s took turns, and we’d all chip in for craft supplies and things. Two or three mothers stayed and we alternated.

I personally think it’s nicer that she’s spending time with her grandparents, and probably nicer for them. Lots of kids don’t have that.