By Amanda Evans - Family Resource Center, Parent Educator
Hi! My name is Amanda and I would like to talk to you about the importance of you and your children staying connected to their preschool or daycare programs right now. Here is my background: I am the parent educator for the Branford Family Resource Center. I have a graduate degree in education. I have been working with kids for 25 years. I also have a five-year-old daughter and in the 15 minutes since I sat down and started to write this, she has interrupted me 7, actually now 8, times and one of us (I won’t say which one) has ended up crying. Maybe you can relate to this.
I didn’t just mention my daughter to make you nod your head in understanding. She needs attention, a lot of it, and that is the heart of the issue we as parents (or educators with our own kids) face during this epidemic. Parenting children of any age during lockdown is a challenge none of us could have predicted, and parenting preschoolers is REALLY difficult at the moment. A middle or high schooler did the majority of their schoolwork on the computer even before COVID, and a 4th grader can more or less manage online assignments and lessons on their own. They may complain, they may be bored, we may have to nag them, but elementary schoolers and up are able to at least partially understand why things have changed so much so quickly.
Preschoolers, on the other hand, aren’t built for distance learning. At all. Fives and under have limited attention spans, a wobbly concept of time, move almost constantly, are just beginning to regulate their emotions, and are designed to learn by doing and sensing in person. They thrive on real-world interactions, not Zoom meetings. Even the best preschool teachers with the most engaging online circle times are going to struggle keeping their students focused on them - and that’s with parental supervision and participation. I know each of you reading this has all the time in the world to urge your preschooler to sit still and listen during virtual morning meetings, right? No other demands on your attention, I’m sure, like working from home or other children or cleaning or laundry or cooking or…
Interestingly enough, this is where staying connected, keeping in contact, with your preschool program can actually help you. Hear me out, because I know it’s easy to feel like this is another item to add to a list that already is a mile long.
If your child’s teachers are anything like me, the teachers I work with, or my daughter’s teachers, they have been working very hard to come up with art, science, math, movement, music, literacy, and family activities for your children to do. These might all be in one place like Google classroom, Class Dojo, or a Facebook group, or maybe sent by email or text. However they are offered, we want each and every parent to know that these activities are optional, not a requirement. We want an art project or sensory experiment to add to your child’s (and your) day, break it up and give you a chance to enjoy each other if you can, not feel like doing your taxes or pulling weeds in the backyard. Treat anything your preschooler’s program offers to you as a “want-to,” not a “have-to,” and hopefully that will lift a little stress off of your shoulders.
We miss your children. We miss the routines of school. We miss the in-person connection we had with your family, but that doesn’t mean that the connection is completely broken! We have more options to stay in touch than any other generation before us and now is definitely the time to use them. I’m sure many of you are already texting and emailing your child’s teachers on a regular basis, possibly even with pictures or videos. Keep doing it, and if you’re not, start doing it - this makes our day! If the teacher is able, FaceTime visits are an incredibly effective way to keep a loving connection alive. (I can say with complete truth that I may enjoy the virtual home visits I’ve done with the families I work with even more than the three-year-olds do.) Humans are wired for connection, even through smartphones and tablets. Sometimes a few minutes laughing with a teacher they miss can turn around the entire course of a preschooler’s day - and yours as a result.
I came across a quote recently that I am going to share here because I think we all need the reminder: “Throwing around my doctorate in education for a sec: I want all you parents to know that *literally no human beings ever in history* have been asked to educate kids and do adult work simultaneously the way you are now. The scientific term for what you’re facing is ‘******* insane.’ How true is that? And with no preparation and no warning on top of it!
We know that you are doing the very best you can. We applaud you for it; if any group of people know how hard it can be to keep little kids busy and productively occupied, it’s got to be preschool teachers! We want to continue to be the resource for you we have always been in the past, just in a new, sheltering-in-place kind of way. Parenting during an epidemic is something nobody wants to do, but look at you, doing it anyway! Even on those days when you don’t believe it, your children are lucky to have you; take it from the people who are lucky to know all of you. Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep your chin up. Thanks for reading this far, and if you’d like to reach me, try firstname.lastname@example.org and the Branford FRC Preschool, Playgroup and Friends group on Facebook.