By Dr. Jodi Jacobson Chernoff, Developmental Psychologist
My preschooler is very chatty at home. She retells stories but won't respond to her teacher at school. What can I do to help her?
I hate to answer a question with a question, but how long has your daughter been in her particular preschool class? It's not unusual for children to have an adjustment period when they enter a new classroom during which they spend a lot of time observing and learning the lay of the land. My son was promoted to a new class mid-year (he has a February birthday) after class dynamics had already been established. His new teachers reported that while at first he seemed to join in things, a month or so later they noticed that he spent a lot of time standing apart from the group, observing. This period was then followed by another, more embarrassing (for me) period of adjustment where he acted out. My point is that it takes some children quite awhile to find their place in a new classroom. Even if your daughter entered her class a month or so ago, she may still be adjusting. Time may be all that is needed.
There are ways to help her feel more comfortable with her teacher. The first thing I'd suggest is that you talk to your child about her teacher. Maybe there is something about the teacher that she finds intimidating. For instance, is the teacher very exuberant and loud? If your daughter isn't used to such enthusiasm, she may mistake the teacher's energy as anger. Talking to her about this issue and explaining that some people just have a lot of energy may be all that is needed. Or maybe something happened that got your child and the teacher off on the wrong foot. If you can find out what it was you can probably explain it away.
Other things you can do:
It's very painful to watch a sociable and engaging preschooler withdraw in a new environment. You are commended for noticing that this is happening to your child and for wanting to take action. Preschool is one of the first steps children take in establishing their place in the outside world. As parents we can help them negotiate this transition, but then we must step back and let them make their own way.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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