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Should My Son Be My Student in Preschool?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I teach preschool to three- and four-year-olds and my son is in my class. Do you think that I should send him to another preschool in our area next year to get him ready for kindergarten or let him stay in my class? He has an older sister who has been helping him learn, so he is above most other kids in his preschool class right now. I'm not so worried about academics; I'm more concerned with socialization. What's your opinion?

A: Preschool isn't an academic preparation for kindergarten, so I am not concerned about your three-year-old being "above" or "below" the others in his preschool class. It's asking a lot of three-year-old to adjust to his mommy being his preschool teacher. It's unfair to assume that he has the emotional or social development necessary at this age to distinguish between "Mommy at home" and "Mommy as teacher."

I don't believe that you would be doing him serious harm by continuing to keep him in the preschool where you teach, but I would elect to place him in another fine preschool program. In a preschool setting without you present as a teacher, he will be unencumbered by the conflicts that your daily presence in his school presents. He will learn to separate naturally from you and to socialize and learn on his own, without the omnipresence of his mom. He will also get the opportunity to interact with other kids as his "own person", not as "the teacher's kid." This social opportunity will afford him more of a chance to establish his own sense of autonomy and independence.

Don't be surprised if this transition to another school is a difficult one. After all, you have established a pattern of never being apart from one another and his experience of preschool is one where mommy is always present. I would transition to the new preschool with the usual visits so that he can gradually accustom himself to the move. I'm sure that this change will benefit his overall development.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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