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Preschools battle parental paranoia

Counsellors called in to ease pressures of admission time

Calcutta: Childish behaviour might soon invite a new rebuke: "Stop acting like a parent!"

Teachers and education consultants are astonished by the number of parents who need counselling to handle their disappointment at little kids not getting into schools of their choice.

"We meet hyperventilating parents every day. The onus is on us to ease the pressure on them so that it does not pass on to the children," said Suman Sood, director of Mongrace Montessori House.

Parental emotions (and aspirations) are on overdrive between September and January, when preschools send their little soldiers to war. In the extreme, the failure of a child to crack the admission hurdle is taken by the parents as an affront to their genes. Some move on, others don't. This is where counselling comes in, either in groups or one on one.

"We often have parents coming to us after an interview to complain, 'Our child did not perform'. How can you expect a three-year-old to perform?" said a preschool head.

According to psychologists, the lack of a support system within nuclear families makes some parents crumble under the pressure of putting their children in "the best school". Competition among parents and the tendency to compare add to the burden of expectations.

"I have seen parents, mostly mothers, cut themselves off from other guardians or get back into the circle, depending on their children's performance in a school interview. It is almost as if a child who does not make it to a particular school has lost a year," said parenting consultant Payel Ghosh, who "prepares" guardians for the kindergarten admission grind.

These sessions are all about explaining to parents that schools have a limited number of seats and various quotas, because of which they have to be randomly picky. They are told to apply to at least four schools, just to be sure. "We tell them things like the ratio of applicants to seats in a top school. The idea is to make them feel less miserable about their children missing out," Ghosh said.

Some experts recommend mock interviews to make parents aware of the pitfalls. "We prepare them for failure. Parents more often than not end up feeling low when they have a fixation with a particular school," said Nabonita Bose Mukherjee, principal of Bubble Blue.

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