Talking to Your Preschooler About Covid-19

Like so many authorities keep saying, we are living through an unusual time, a historic time. Everyone is anxious, routines are disrupted, playdates and parties are cancelled indefinitely. Maybe you and other family members are working from home, or working fewer hours. Maybe you are now unemployed or laid off. Maybe there is financial difficulty in your household now. Family members are a little on edge. It may be tempting just to pretend that everything is ok, but your preschooler is observing all of it.
I am not a psychologist or a therapist. Just an early childhood educator with a preschooler of my own, going through the same experience as you right now. If you feel you need the help of a professional with your situation please seek it. Perhaps over the phone for social distancing purposes. 
 How then to talk about what is going on? Well meaning parents don’t want to scare their children unnecessarily, and rightly so. I think the answer as with other difficult subjects is to follow your child’s lead. Don’t give answers to questions that haven’t been asked. When your child does ask, however, answer honestly, even if your answer is simplified and reassuring. In the absence of information, children often imagine things are far worse than they actually are.
Remember, too that behavior is communication. Children that are acting out more than usual are likely expressing their fear and frustration over the situation. They don’t have the skills to recognize their feelings and express them. They can’t say,
“Mom, I see that you are tense and anxious and when you are afraid I know something super scary is going on. That makes me scared. On top of that, I’m angry that I can’t play with friends, and I even miss the routine of school, it is comforting and familiar.” So instead there’s yelling or refusing to go to bed or whatever form defiance or acting out takes in your house. Remember that it is ok to be firm in enforcing your limits, but also be kind, loving and reassuring. Your child needs hugs and snuggles after sitting in time out. I love you even when you make bad choices, is a great thing to say.
If it helps to know it, parents all over the world are dealing with the same thing. We truly are all in this together. 
Examples of answered questions:
Q: Why can’t we go to the birthday party?  A: The party was cancelled, no one is going
Q: But why was it cancelled?  A: Right now everyone is supposed to stay at home so we stay healthy
 Q: Why aren’t you going to work? A: My job doesn’t need me there right now
 Q: Why can’t we go to (favorite restaurant)? A: It is closed, no one can go there for a while
Q: Am I going to get sick?                                                                                          A: We are doing everything we can to keep you safe, and kids that get sick, only get a little sick, like a cold
National Association of School Psychologists: Talking to Your children About Covid 19
CDC: Talking with children about coronavirus
Child Mind Institute: How Anxiety Leads to Disruptive Behavior
Pacer Center: Behavior is Communication

Announcing FFLC Summer Camp

Beginning the week of June 1st all the way until the week of August 24th, Family First will be open and offering Summer Camp. You can download all of the information here:

Summer Enrollment Packet 2020

Fall 2020 Registration Information is available here

Developmentally Appropriate Practice

The best preschools know it and follow it: developmentally appropriate practice. What does it mean? It means that well educated early childhood teachers do not have expectations that children are incapable of meeting. Sounds outrageous, right? It is actually far more common than you might expect. In fact, even teachers that are very aware of what is developmentally appropriate have to remind themselves from time to time what preschool students are capable of.
Let’s start with a relatable example. Children usually walk around 12 months of age. They don’t all walk right at 12 months, however. Some walk at 11 months, some walk at 14 months. This is ok, they are all normal. In developmentally appropriate practice, we encourage children of that age to begin walking and provide them with plenty of opportunities and incentives to motivate them to begin walking. We would never punish a child for not being able to walk. We would never consider a child who couldn’t walk yet to be a behavior problem. We also wouldn’t encourage a 6 month old to walk. That would be a waste of time, inappropriate, and take time away from the things that child should actually be learning.
Apply this to preschoolers. Expecting a three year old to sit still in a chair for 20 minutes without moving, that’s not developmentally appropriate. Expecting a 3 year old to write tiny letters on ruled paper, again, inappropriate. Can 3 year olds learn to write, oh yes, some can write small even. Just like the baby that walks at 9 months, we won’t stop them. We will help and encourage them! We won’t, however, punish kids for what they aren’t capable of.Our whole society could use some developmentally appropriate practice.
Adults without a background in child development have a tendency to expect 3 and 4 year olds to sit still and quietly for longer than they are able, transition easily and without prior warning. They expect play to be quiet and not messy, and kids know what clean up means without being shown.
Three years can sit for 8 to 10 minutes on average. That means some can only sit for 6 or 7 and some can sit for 12. A child that can only sit for 6 minutes isn’t a behavior problem, just like a child that doesn’t walk at 10 months isn’t a behavior problem. Make sure the preschool you choose for child knows that their job is to meet your child where they are developmentally, and help them along on their journey.

Choosing a Preschool

  • Student-Teacher Ratio
  • Qualified Teachers
  • Curriculum
  • Years in Operation
Sure things like this are important, but are they the real reasons that we choose a preschool for our kids? I mean we do have these things at Family-First, smaller class sizes, excellent CDA credentialed teachers, a comprehensive, assessment- based curriculum, and this is our 11th school year building on what we’ve learned. But we are so much more than that. We are a community that loves your family and your child. We want to help your child developmentally, socially, emotionally, academically, and spiritually. We want to love you like Jesus loves us.
Come and see us.

Potty Training for Preschool

Many parents have been where you are; registering for fall preschool with a child that isn’t quite potty trained. You are nervous and not sure if it’s a good idea. Here are some guidelines:
  1. Is your child old enough and showing signs of readiness? If your child just doesn’t seem interested, isn’t bothered by dirty diapers, has trouble communicating, or doesn’t have long periods of being dry, you may need to wait. Trying too soon will just be frustrating for both of you.
  2. Try potty training on the weekend when you don’t have to go anywhere. It is less stressful for everyone that way. Clear your schedule. Break out the salty snacks and the water or juice boxes.
  3. Don’t punish your child for mistakes. Your child isn’t misbehaving or disobeying you. Your child is learning a new skill. Mistakes are part of the process. Instead of using punishments use rewards, called reinforcers, when your child makes a step in the right direction. The reward should be something your child likes and needs to be given as close as possible to when the desired behavior happened. Five minutes later, or when you get home won’t work.
  4. Negative attention is attention. Remember about not using punishments? Even if you don’t agree on that here’s another reason. Negative attention is still positive. It is giving attention, which some kids will seek out. It reinforces the behavior you don’t want and will make it happen more often.
  5. Lastly, use real underwear. I know it’s a mess. I know, you don’t want to do laundry. Those pull ups really feel like a diaper though. Make a big deal about the big kid underwear. Go to the store and buy the pack your child picks out. Yes it is obnoxious that they charge $10 for 2 pairs of kids underwear because their favorite cartoon character is on them. Just remember that you can say that Paw Patrol doesn’t want to be peed on.
  6. Make sure your child is developmentally able to meet your expectations. If you try to potty train and are not making progress over several weeks, consider that your child may not be physically able to do what you are asking. Boys may need to be older than girls, often over the age of three. Remember that potty training is just like any other developmental skill. You can’t punish or yell at your child until they walk or talk. It is the same with the potty. It is ok for your child to start school in October or November if that’s when he or she is ready.

Registration for Fall 2019

It’s that time of year again! We just began accepting registrations from families that are already attending FFLC. We will open registration to the general public on March 1, 2019.

Early Intervention for Suspected Developmental Delays

Leading an early childhood classroom is a lot more involved than it seems from the outside. Yes we have a circle time and read stories. Sure we are asking kids about their family camping trip. All the while we pretend camp, throwing in letter sounds, vocabulary words, shapes, and fine motor skills, turning play time into learning time. The whole time we are also assessing without assessments. We note which students need extra help learning those letter sounds, and which students can tie the toy apron on before washing the pretend dishes. We also notice which students struggle.
We have seen more three, four, and five year olds and their language, motor skills, attention spans, cognition, emotional regulation, and social skills than most other people. That does not make us doctors, psychologists, or social workers. It does make us the first professionals that may confront a parent about missing developmentally appropriate skills. If we have concerns we may recommend a developmental assessment by a qualified medical professional.

Better Safe Than Sorry

There is no harm in having an assessment like this. If we are overly cautious, and a child falls within the range of behaviors that don’t need intervention, some time and copays have been wasted. If intervention is warranted, it can mean the difference between functioning with a minor or major disability as an adult. Early intervention can make it possible to attend mainstream classrooms, develop typical communication skills, and stop behavior issues. Early intervention can literally rewire the brain. This is why we have difficult conversations with parents. Children that need help deserve to have someone take risks on their behalf.

Why Not the School District?

People have asked, why get a medical diagnosis? Why not go to the school district and get an IEP (or 504 plan) and obtain services that way? That is a great question. We have had students in preschool here with IEPs and we welcome meetings with therapists and other professionals. We have held IEP meetings on site. While an IEP is a great thing to have to protect your child, they are hard to get, don’t cover all disabilities, and you have to meet strict criteria. You child could need early intervention, and you call the school district, go to be evaluated and then they tell you that everything is ok. That false reassurance will keep you from getting the help that your child needs. That is not good for your child. Also specifically with autism, if your child has a medical diagnosis from a doctor that your insurance company usually picks in advance, that are early intervention therapies that your insurance must cover under state of Michigan law. We suggested you try to get both medical/private intervention and help from the school district, and to get the medical intervention first.

Where to Find More Information

3 and 4 Year Old Milestones (CDC)
U of M Developmental Pediatrics Clinic
Children’s Hospital of Michigan Request Appointment Page
Autism Centers of Michigan (Lansing)