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The Informed Parent

Pros And Cons Of Preschool, Part 1

by John H. Samson, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Apr. 16, 2001

Often I am asked my professional opinion on sending youngsters to preschool. Just how important is it for the development of the child?

One must look at the topic in its basic form in order to better formulate an opinion. Parents who feel preschool is critical defend their views steadfastly. Those who consider preschool not essential express themselves with equal vigor. Educators have mixed feelings. Some consider it very important; others believe a caring family alone can provide the best preschool nurturing.

We must honestly evaluate why we do anything to or for our children. If we pretend we are doing something for other than the real motive, it leads to parental guilt and ultimately resentment of our offspring. The keystone of all interpersonal relationships with our children, siblings, friends and spouse is self-honesty. If we are not honest with ourselves, how can we be honest with our loved ones?

Keeping this in mind, ask yourself the question, why do children go to preschool? I have found the following to be the most common reasons:

  1. The parent who gives primary care needs time away from the child on a regular basis. This may be to accomplish necessary tasks or simply to remove the yoke of childcare for a few hours several days per week.
  2. The parents wish to prepare their offspring emotionally to associate with other children prior to entering kindergarten. There may be no siblings to provide interaction, or there may be no neighborhood children of comparable developmental age.
  3. The parents want to provide their child with some basic academic skills to carry into kindergarten. They feel inadequate or don’t have the time to teach these skill themselves.
  4. The primary care parent simply needs to work in order to provide food, clothing and shelter. Therefore, a preschool is a convenient care center.
  5. The child has a special problem for which a specific preschool can provide help in augmenting his or her development, specific skill acquisition or emotional well-being.

The first reason causes the majority of problems to parents; needlessly I might add. Too often I find mothers are reluctant to admit to themselves that they need some relief time.

Instead, they say they are sending their child to preschool to have him or her learn academic skills. Or they state they are doing it to have the child learn how to be around other children when their neighborhood is teeming with comparable urchins. Some tell me they do it because they have to work when they know they have enough income as a family to do nicely without any extra funds. As individuals, they know they are being dishonest to themselves, feel guilty and then resent the fact that the child has put them in that position.

Then the cycle of guilt and resentment starts, which may build to ridiculous proportions and permeate the entire family relationship.

Next week we will look into various opinions pro and con to preschool.

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