“I Felt So Powerless”: A Parent-Teacher Partnership Story

A parent speaking to her child's teacher while holding her child

A lightbulb moment: “My gut was telling me this was holding her back.”  

A toddler loves, loves, loves her teacher and her center, yet every day she dissolves into sobs when it’s time to let go of mom’s hand. What’s going on?  

This was the daily truth for working mom, Elizabeth. “There were days when I had an inexplicably crying kid,” she recalls of her 3-year-old daughter, Jenny. “I was just feeling so powerless.” 

Separation played a role; but the problem wasn’t that (or at least not just that). Instead, it was something subtler; something Jenny’s teacher Melissa picked up on. This is the story of Elizabeth*, a worried mom, Melissa, an attentive teacher – and the two working together to give Elizabeth’s daughter Jenny just what she needed.  

*All names and locations have been changed to protect privacy.  

Melissa (teacher): I remember when Jenny transitioned into my class – she’s a fun-loving, happy, spirited child.   

Elizabeth (mom): Jenny loved Melissa immediately. She felt safe around her. You could just tell.  

Melissa: I could see Jenny was a little scared about entering a new classroom and there were definitely difficult drop-offs. During our first conference, Elizabeth expressed concerns.  

Elizabeth: It was an ongoing challenge to just have Jenny feel comfortable. It was so stressful to leave her crying. I kept asking myself, why was it so difficult? 

Melissa: Elizabeth mentioned concerns for her daughter’s social-emotional development; she noticed that Jenny tended to follow one familiar friend and that she was having trouble joining in with groups and forming new friendships.  

Elizabeth: Melissa was so reassuring. She walked me through potential reasons. From her perspective, she felt Jenny’s speech articulation was making it hard for her, and that maybe that’s what was causing social difficulties. 

Melissa: I explained that sometimes we have a difficult time understanding Jenny.  

This was a surprise to me because my husband and I understood Jenny perfectly. It was intuitive. But I heard what Melissa was saying. After that conversation, I started really thinking about it. And I realized when Jenny spoke to her grandparents, they would turn to my husband and me to say, “What did she say?” And we’d say, “You didn’t understand it? It was crystal clear.” I feel like our brains automatically translated for her.  

Melissa: My gut was telling me this – speech -- was holding her back from conversing with her peers.  

Elizabeth: This was a lightbulb moment. Looking back, I think it made us realize how long we’d been translating for Jenny. There were 20 months during the pandemic when she was only with us. I’ve since heard that speech therapists are seeing a lot of kids coming out of the pandemic with those kinds of issues. It was helpful to hear it from a teacher. 

Melissa: After that, Elizabeth reached out to a speech pathologist who then confirmed my suspicions. Jenny’s now in speech therapy.  

Elizabeth: That was a turning point -- to get into a more active stance working on things. Jenny’s still in speech therapy, and she’s working on different sounds and making a sound within a sentence. She has more mastery, still working on putting it all together. But her confidence has already grown. 

Melissa: From what we can see, since starting, Jenny’s social skills in school have soared.  

Elizabeth: She’s more able to voice what she’s thinking.  

Melissa: We eventually got to a place where Jenny could come into the classroom most days without any issues. She still has some setbacks. Elizabeth and I continue to work through the difficult drop-offs. And when this happens, Elizabeth will always come to me for suggestions and reassurance that she is okay.   

Elizabeth: I wish I could say it’s all linear. But it’s ups and downs. Anxiety is like that. After a long holiday away it can still be hard. But Melissa is always there for us. Every time Jenny’s had challenges, Melissa has been behind me and we navigated it together. Another really tough time for Jenny was when her friends moved up to k-prep and she wasn’t old enough to go with them. Now, she’s coming into her own as one of the oldest kids in the class. The intervention that Melissa recommended so long ago really helped accelerate her confidence in that process. I can only imagine how she’d be doing now if she hadn’t done that.  

Melissa: Today, Elizabeth and I keep an open dialogue and have check-ins as needed, either in-person or via email, to ensure that her daughter is thriving and also so that the family feels continuous support. 

Elizabeth: We still have tough days. But the most important thing is when that happens, Melissa always takes an active role to make the transition easier. She reassures me that Jenny’s fine and that she got her settled in. It’s so important to know your child is happy especially when your child is little. Jenny is still only three.  

Today, Jenny continues to make progress, and Elizabeth calls her daughter’s teacher the family’s shining star. “I really credit Melissa – just who she is as a teacher. She really connects to my daughter,” says Elizabeth. “When it’s a tough morning at home, the one thing that gets Jenny in the car are the words, ‘Melissa wants to see you.’ She’s amazing.”   

Bright Horizons
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Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
A parent speaking to her child's teacher while holding her child