Question: I teach at my son’s preschool.  It’s his first year at this school and my first year back to work, which may play a big part in his difficulty. I am really torn by the fact that he isn’t connecting to any of the children yet and asks me to help him find friends to play with during recess. I want to help him and yet I have a job to do. At his last school, he had a best buddy whom we still keep in touch with; but so far, no one here. This is a heartbreaker for me. Any thoughts?

Adele Brodkin: You describe several dilemmas, any one of which would be challenging enough.  What’s more, it is difficult to unravel the issues that are intertwined.  I agree it is a big challenge for a child to start a new school; it is also a challenge for a preschooler’s mother to be returning to work and focusing on work needs, and in this case, “so near and yet so far.” You must be concerned about succeeding, being able to balance home and family, being fair to all the children, and pleasing your employer as well as nurturing your child.

While on the one hand, you might feel comfortable knowing your son is close by, the dual role you must play seems to be too stressful for both of you. Let me reassure you that if your son were placed (for next year) in a different program, there might be a great deal more ease for all. I don’t know whether the school he’s now attending (where you teach) allows a tuition perk and that’s the main reason for his being there; but he may not be ready to share you. Things might work out better for all concerned if, when you and your son are together, you can focus totally on him. In the meantime, try to guide him socially, as you would any other child who asked for your help in making friends.

For more advice by Adele, check out the Between Teacher and Parent column.