Sending our children to preschool is a milestone—not just for them, but also for us. After all, being apart from your kids and allowing them to be in a new environment on their own is not easy for us parents. Sending our children to preschool is a milestone—not just for them, but also for us. After all, being apart from your kids and allowing them to be in a new environment on their own is not easy for us parents.
For parents of eczema children in particular, it can be even harder because we worry about whether the teachers are able to take care of our children’s skin. I remember being anxious about how preschool would turn out for my daughter and was relieved that it turned out very well for her.
Here are my top eight tips for choosing a preschool for your eczema child:
1. Inform the school of your child’s eczema.
I first sent emails to preschools to 1) ask if there were vacancies and 2) if they had experience taking care of children with eczema. The preschools that were unable or not comfortable caring for eczema children would respond honestly, which saved me the effort of visiting the school.
2. Visit the school before making a decision.
Visiting the preschool is a must. I found that apart from reviewing their activity program, it was important to look out for: • Cleanliness of the preschool. Young children spend a lot of time playing on the floor, therefore ensuring that the school is clean is extremely important. • Chemicals used in the preschool. To avoid exposing your child to harmful chemicals that irritate their skin, you can ask what cleaning products the school uses.• An open attitude from the staff. It never hurts to ask if the preschool is open to you bringing your own food and personal care product. It’s also a good idea to check if they are willing to help your child apply moisturizer.
3. Ask about the class sizes—the smaller, the better.
It is more likely that they will be able to devote more time to help your child manage their eczema if the class size is not too large. However, a smaller class size usually equates to higher fees. The alternative is to find a preschool that may be less convenient, newly set up or not from a popular franchise.
4. Watch the teachers and students interact.
When you are visiting the school, observe how the teachers interact with the children. There should be two teachers per class—typically one teaching while the other assists the children. The teachers should look engaged with the children.
5. Ask about their experience with eczema kids.
You can ask whether the preschool currently has any students with eczema or allergies, and what they do to help these children. Do not enforce on the preschool what you think they should do, but instead, maintain an open mind and attitude on how they manage their classrooms.
6. Make sure the preschool is a NO BULLYING zone.
If your child has eczema, it is possible that they may be teased or feel embarrassed by the appearance of their skin. Preschools that take bullying seriously will be mindful about creating a respectful environment not just between the students and the teachers, but also among the children themselves.
7. Volunteer to raise awareness around eczema.
As parents of eczema children, we spend a lot of time researching eczema and caring for our child’s skin. Instead of holding onto that knowledge, why not volunteer to contribute an article to the preschool’s bulletin, or write an e-book or information booklet for the preschool? That way, the preschool will not only learn more about caring for eczema children, but also show other parents that they are proactive in caring for children with special needs.
8. Sign up for a trial run with the preschool.
If there is a trial week offered by the preschool, I encourage you to attend the trial week even if it may cost more. A trial week would normally allow you to stay with your child, and it is a good opportunity to build rapport with the teachers and caregivers at the preschool. If the preschool turned out very differently from what you had expected, it is also not too late to select another one.
The right preschool can provide an enriching and exciting educational experience for your child. Just remember to keep an open mind and be understanding of the preschool teachers. Their job isn’t easy!
Mei is the mother of Marcie (aka MarcieMom), who’s had eczema from two weeks old. She has an eczema blog for parents called “EczemaBlues,” co-authored the book “Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers” and illustrated the children book “A to Z Animals are not Scratching!”