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How do I handle the bad behavior of my kids’ friends?

Dear Mama Drama:

Hope it’s okay I’m a dad.

My wife and I have a 4 year old in preschool and have recently been struggling with whom our little guy is friends. There is one particular boy at school that we feel is a bad influence from whom our son seems to be picking up bad habits. Should we let his teacher know and perhaps ask them to not allow them to spend so much time together throughout the day?

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We even have the kid’s mother now asking for play dates and we’re not sure if we should encourage our son to hang out with this other little boy. Are we being too protective and controlling?  What would your advice be for encouraging our son to hang out with nicer, more well-behaved kids?

Thanks ~ Flustered Father

Preschool: A Transition from ABC to X+Y=Z

Preschool started for us a couple weeks ago. By “us,” I mean my kids started school—obviously I’m not in preschool. If I was, it wouldn’t be so bad. Because it’s preschool.

Right now, school is all about rules and boundaries and fine motor skills. But, soon it’ll be about geography and geometry, which have no place in our home except for the shape of things. Really, how often do you have to figure out the area of your dining room table mirror?

Morning routine chaos: How can I end the madness?

Dear Mama Drama:

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I am having a hard time getting my four-year-old to preschool on time. I usually ask him to get ready while I hop in the shower. When I get out, he hasn’t done anything. I get so frustrated because we are then rushing around and end up being late.

Please help us with this madness!

~Delayed Mama

Dear Delayed:

Getting out of the door on time in the morning is a challenge for many families. It is important to consider your child’s age and skill level when determining how independently he can complete the tasks you are asking of him. It sounds like your son, like most four-year-olds, will need more adult support to get through the morning routine.

When things are not working it is time to develop a new plan.

One idea would be to bring the items he needs to use into the bathroom where you are showering. He can get dressed, wash his face, and brush his teeth and hair while you shower. Having him in the room with you allows you to peek out periodically to give him support and encouragement. Have some books in a basket that he can look at as a reward when he’s done.

Another idea is to change your routine. Get up fifteen minutes earlier to take your shower and then you can work together to get dressed and ready to leave.

Provide visual supports. This previous Mama Drama column on Morning Routines explains how and why to use visuals as you move your son toward greater independence.  It also addresses the issue of awareness of time, or lack thereof, and strategies to help your child develop this.

Avoid distractions like television, videos, radios, toys, and computers that pull your child’s attention away from the task at hand. Use these as a carrot to encourage him to complete his tasks. Set a goal of being ready ten minutes before you need to leave and he can then choose a preferred activity for those few minutes. This also gives you time to slow down, have a cup of coffee or tea, and finish any last minute tasks.

It is always critical to remember that if things aren’t working, we need to change something…and it isn’t our children, it is ourselves. Provide the supports he needs and mornings will be smoother for everyone.

What tricks help your mornings run smoothly?

Lisa Vratny-Smith

Is my preschooler overscheduled? Four important activities

While it’s definitely important to expose your child to different activities, for physical, cognitive and emotional development, it’s also important to know just how much is too much?

When it comes to structured activities, this doesn’t include daycare or preschool, children ages one to five years old have an attention span of about thirty minutes, and children five to eight years old have attention spans that are closer to one hour. Try to choose activities accordingly so that your child is able to stay focused for the majority of the class. When exploring options and picking a class, we recommend thinking about the following:

1) Consider your child’s interests and pick activities based on what they like (so far!)

2) Expose them to as many different types of activities over their early years and see what they like and don’t like.

To help give a better understanding of how specific activities can help your child develop, below is a quick “run down” of the four of the most popular types of preschool-aged activities.

Colorado children edged out of preschool because of limited funding

Thousands of Colorado youngsters who qualify for preschool could be turned away when classes start this month because the state does not have enough money to cover the cost of their education.

The Colorado Department of Education does not maintain precise data on the number of qualifying 3- and 4-year-olds who are denied access because of funding constraints in the state’s preschool program or the federal Head Start program.

Still, the most recent estimates from the agency suggest that as many as 12,010 4-year-olds who were considered to be at-risk because of economic and social conditions had no preschool available to them through the Colorado Preschool Program or Head Start during the 2011-12 school year. That is about 17 percent of Colorado’s nearly 70,000 4-year-olds in 2012.

Denver Preschool Program scores well in evaluation

Assessments measuring the effectiveness of the Denver Preschool Program, which provides tuition credits to families and grants to qualifying preschools, show a majority of kids leaving ready for kindergarten.

Kids enrolled in DPP facilities made better than average progress in vocabulary, literacy and math during their preschool year, according to a 2010 evaluation, which also included surveys, interviews and focus groups.

Nearly 75 percent scored at average or above on literacy and math assessments given to 200 students among nearly 6,000 who received tuition credits last school year.

Nearly one-third of parents said they wouldn’t have enrolled their children in preschool without

Mama Drama: Separation Anxiety Blues

Dear Mama Drama:

My daughter just started preschool and cries and clings to me every time I take her. This is her first experience away from me. What can I do to help her adjust?

~Struggling to Separate

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Dear Struggling:

Leaving your child when they are crying and scared is one of the most heart wrenching experiences a parent can have. The multitude of emotions you experience can be overwhelming.

Heading off to school for the first time can also be a scary experience for many children. If they have never been left anywhere like school or day care previously, they have no idea what to expect. Common fears for first time preschoolers are that mom or dad won’t come back, no one will play with them, and they don’t know what to do if they have to go to the bathroom. Many young children are not yet able to express these fears verbally, so instead they cry and cling to mom or dad.

Here are a few ideas to ease your daughter’s anxiety and yours as well:

  1. Arrange a visit to the classroom and teacher(s) before school starts. (It’s ideal to do before the school year, but since you have already started thirty minutes before class should do.) Explore the room with your daughter and the teacher discovering the materials and toys that interest her and allowing her to begin developing a relationship with the teacher.
  2. Use items that she was interested in on your visit together to entice her into the classroom when she comes to school. These transition objects help children move more smoothly from one part of their day to another.
  3. Reassure your daughter you will be back to pick her up. As most preschoolers cannot tell time, you can talk with her about her routine at school and let her know you’ll see her after snack (or whatever the last activity of the day is.)
  4. Take pictures of yourself and other family members in the home to send with her to school. Laminate them (clear contact paper works great, too) so they can hold up over time. My sons loved mom and dad on one side and the brothers together on the other. (Even at seven and ten they like to keep these pictures handy in their backpacks.)
  5. Read books with your daughter about what to expect at preschool. D.W.’s Guide to Preschool by Marc Brown is a great option and includes that very important reminder that the moms and dad do come back!
  6. Speak positively about preschool and the fun things she’ll get to do each day.
  7. Try to stay calm and relaxed yourself. Keeping your anxiety down will help her to feel more relaxed as well.