daughter kissing mother
During the preschool years, we watch with trepidation as our children experience that first whiff of independence. Letting our “babies” grow up, just a little bit, is a difficult and emotional task for parents. You can help your child with this process by teaching him some very key life-skills. Below are three things every preschooler needs to know.
1. Faster is not always better. It is tempting when a child hits preschool to sign her up for every activity on the plant. Now that your child knows what other kids are doing she might start asking you to sign her up for various things as well. But even though she knows that Suzy next door is in karate, gymnastics, t-ball, soccer and dance, it doesn’t mean she has to as well. It also does not mean Suzy is going to be in the next Olympics, that she will be a straight-A student, or a more well-rounded child. In fact, preschoolers need scheduled down-time. If they are used to being carted around everywhere and entertained at all times, they will miss out on the opportunity to learn to entertain themselves, an important life-skill. Slowing down and having free-time is just as valuable as signing up for the next soccer team.
2. It’s probably somewhere in the middle. In a preschooler’s mind it is often hard to see from another point of view, hence the cries for help that say, “She hit me!” But the truth is that conflict rarely is unprovoked or one-sided. When dealing with this type of tattle-tale scenario, assuming no one is injured, ask the ‘telling’ child, “What did you do?” If possible, get both children together and allow each to each tell his side of the story. Then you piece it together in a logical sequence and re-tell the ‘real story’. This allows a preschooler to start to see that he contributed to the problem and he is not either a victim of someone else’s bad behavior or a bully who needs to be punished. Then he can accept responsibility for his role in the conflict and apologize, or the children together come up with a solution that will help them avoid the conflict in the future.
3. This is the plan, but it could change. We all know that children love routine. There are benefits to routines that adults find comforting, too. But being too stuck in a routine can create a lot of undue stress and anxiety for children. Teaching your preschooler to remain flexible and open is important in today’s ever-changing world. Those who can adapt quickly and easily often have the most fun and success. It is okay to allow your child to be disappointed if plans change. That is part of life. There is no need to shield him from such emotions. Help him through his disappointment by allowing him to talk about it and by validating his feelings with a hug or reassurance that it will be just fine. To take it one step further you might also help him see how what happened was even better than the plan he had hoped for in the first place, which often is the case.
Most of us can agree that the best way to teach your child anything is through example. So, as you review the list above can you see how it might help you as well? When you are asked to join another committee can you slow down and recognize that faster is not always better? The next time you and your spouse are in an argument, can you give up the victim role and see that the solution is probably somewhere in the middle? And when plans change, can you learn to be more flexible and not so attached to things happening a certain way?
Preschool is a wonderful age of growth, so take advantage of this opportunity for both you and your child to learn some important life skills.
As a Certified Life Coach, speaker and author, April O’Leary helps women bring peace into their busy lives. She also teaches a tele-course called Ride the Wave and offers one-on-one coaching sessions by phone or in her office. April and her husband Jim reside in Estero with their three girls. For more on April, visit her website at www.apriloleary.com.