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I've seen some amazing preschools… and getting in isn't always easy. Some require you to get on their registration page at midnight on January 1st to snag your spot. Others essentially require you to get on a waiting list upon your child's birth. Not kidding.

The preschool selection scene can get pretty intense. We know the early years matter, but will getting into the "right" preschool really determine the trajectory of your child's remaining decades?

Between my own personal and professional experience and a fantastic podcast conversation I had recently with my friend Deborah Stewart, a phenomenal teacher and mentor at Teach Preschool, I've found that considering a preschool is more about finding the best fit for your child than about finding the one "perfect" school.

For every neonatal waiting list, I've also seen amazing things happening in small preschools with no waiting list at all. There are certainly things to consider to gauge overall quality, but the biggest thing to remember is that it's more important to follow your child's lead than to follow the crowd.

In choosing a preschool for your child, I recommend paying attention to these five aspects:

1. Your child

First and foremost, spend some time thinking about your child. What kind of environment do they thrive in? What makes them nervous, excited, uncomfortable, or at ease?

Do they need more structure or more freedom? More opportunity for big body movement like climbing, jumping, and running, or for long spans of quiet creativity?

What will be most challenging about preschool? Will it be the separation from you? Will it be making friends? Will it be following directions? In what areas would you like to see the most growth in your child after a year of preschool?

Thinking about your child's personality and tendencies help you recognize when the school everyone else is raving about might not actually match up with what your child needs most.

2. The teachers

If you're able to observe the teachers at work, watch to see how they interact with the kids. Hopefully, you see a teacher who is warm and enthusiastic about teaching. Someone who doesn't just stand to the side and play lifeguard, but who gets low to make eye contact and connect with the children. Look for a teacher who is engaging and creates a language-rich environment, but not because they're the ones doing all the talking!

Consider your own child's personality, and observe how this teacher approaches them. Keep in mind that a teacher you may love to have as a friend yourself may not be the best connection for your child.

3. The environment

If you look around the classroom and school, they should obviously be clean and orderly. But I would bristle at an environment that looked TOO perfect.

It should look like small children actually play there. You want to see materials that children can access and put away themselves (even if that means the place doesn't look like a perfect magazine spread).

Find areas of the room where you can sit on the floor or low to the ground and see the environment from your child's perspective. Are items easy to reach? Is the furniture and the decoration of the room oriented to a child's view or an adult's?

You want to see signs that the children have taken some ownership of their environment by creating items displayed in the room and building. That art shouldn't look like it was mass-produced with every piece looking the same. They also shouldn't appear like they've been "fixed" by adults who made them look "right."

Above all, classrooms should look like one big invitation to play!

See whether there are spots for hands-on sensory exploration, block building, dress up, art, and an irresistible book area. There should ideally be a balance of quiet areas and louder areas as well as space for big movements (like a playspace outside) and times and spaces for calm stillness.

Further, check out the bathroom facilities. The preschool years run right along the same timeline for most children to be newly potty-trained and as a newbie, using a public toilet can present a whole new challenge. Are the bathrooms close to the classroom (or ideally IN it)? Can the sink and toilet be used independently by a small child? Are children able to use the bathroom whenever they need to?

Pay attention to your other senses beyond sight as well. Particularly, how does the environment sound? A room or building full of children shouldn't be silent—you should notice a happy, busy buzz of children interacting. At the same time, thinking back to what you considered about your child, make a note as to whether it's too loud or too quiet for your child's comfort level.

Again, there's no perfect answer here, but particularly if you have a child with sound sensitivities, that "ideal" play-based classroom everyone's lining up for may have the ideal "happy hum" for many children, but be a constant roar to your own child.

4. The other children

If you're able to observe a classroom in action, watch the children and observe how they interact with one another.

Mild conflict is normal (and how the teacher addresses that will be very helpful to observe) but generally, you would hope to see children who are building their social skills. They're practicing sharing and taking turns and inviting each other to play with them.

The way that the children interact (and the way they're supported when they struggle) can tell you a lot about how social skills are promoted. While the early academic skills gained in preschool are important, the number one, most important task for preschool is building solid social skills.

Additionally, see if other children seem to feel at ease or on edge. Do they avoid the teacher or comply out of fear? Do they have an active role in the classroom or are they expected to sit for long periods as passive listeners? Paying attention to these behaviors can shed light on discipline, expectations and the overall culture of the classroom.

5. The location

As parents, we would go to the end of the earth for our children, but you don't want that to be your commute twice a day for preschool drop off and pick up.

Choosing a location that is reasonable for you isn't a selfish consideration. Since practicing social skills and making friends is one of your child's top priorities in preschool, you'll want to find a school where you're more likely to be able to get together with those new friends and possibly continue those friendships on into kindergarten and elementary school.

There are many things to consider as you select a preschool, but it helps to brainstorm your own questions ahead of your school visits. The greatest tool you have in this process is your attunement with your own child and your willingness to choose a school that best fits those individual needs and unique goals.

There's no one, right answer, and there are no perfect preschools., but there are many great preschools out there that can be "just right" for your child.

You might also like:

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

My kids miss their grandparents on a regular basis. They're obsessed with them in this completely beautiful, loving way. One set lives four hours south of us and the other set lives about three hours north. We all frequently talk about how we wished we lived closer so we could see each other more regularly because even though they're not super far (thank goodness), it still feels far enough.

Far enough to require planning visits in advance, packing our bags for those visits and sleeping over instead of opportunities for weekly family dinners or sneaking out for a midweek date night, free grandparent-babysitting included.

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But even though we don't see each other daily, or weekly even, we all make significant efforts to visit consistently. We always have plans together on the horizon. Birthdays are celebrated in-person, plays or recitals attended and often when our kindergartener has time off from school, we pack up and either go to New York or Vermont to spend our free time with them.

Except right now. Right now—even though our kiddos are not going to school—we can't just pack up and head north or south. Which has been confusing, and understandably emotional, for the kids.

Basically a lot of our conversations lately have gone something like this:

Child: "Can we go to Grandma and Grandpa's house, pleeeeeeease?"

Me: "I'm sorry, honey, we can't right now. Remember how we talked about the germs going around? We have to stay home to keep safe."

Child: "Well, when are the germs gonna be goneeeeeee?"

Me: "We aren't sure. We just have to try to be patient."

Child: "Why can't we just go to Nana and Poppas nowwww?"

And after I side-step the whining, I want to burst into tears. Because I don't know. I don't know what to tell them exactly. I don't know when we'll see their grandparents again.

I simply don't know when this will be over.

And while the kids are used to frequent FaceTimes with Nana and Poppa to stay in touch and they know they have to go through stretches of time without visits from Grandma and Grandpa, they're not used to stretches this long or only having FaceTime as an option for connection.

Even though this is our new (and temporary) normal, it doesn't feel normal. The uncertainty isn't normal. Long periods of isolation isn't normal. Only being around each other—and no one else—isn't normal.

Celebrations that were planned and family visits that had been marked down in our calendars have been canceled and crossed out. Baptisms, birthday parties, Easter gatherings—all gone.

This Easter, a time when we usually gather with at least one set of grandparents, will be celebrated by the five of us, in our home without any extended family members. We'll still hunt for eggs and eat too much Easter candy, of course—but there will be a piece of our puzzle missing in the shape of a chocolate bunny from Poppa and a ricotta pie from Grandma.

We don't know when we'll be together in person again and it's breaking our hearts.

Because they miss Grandma rubbing their back and earlobes (this is a true request) while she tells them bedtime stories.

They miss going on adventures to the farm with Grandpa.

They miss cuddling up with Nana on the couch for movie time.

They miss going on walks with Poppa to visit the ducks.

They miss smelling Grandma's meatballs and sauce cooking in the kitchen.

They miss building blocks with Grandpa in the living room.

They miss painting rocks with Nana at the kitchen table.

They miss Poppa sneaking them M&M's.

I can't help but pause and think to myself how lucky they are they get to miss these people—as strange as that sounds. I'm so proud of the relationship they have with their grandparents, how close they all are, and I know this strange period of time could never take that away from them.

The other day, my father-in-law read about five books to my 2-year-old after she grabbed my phone and demanded, "Gandma, Gandpa! Read book!" to me while dragging me over to her little fox chair in the corner. She plopped herself down—snacks included—and I adjusted the phone so she could see her Grandpa's face as he started reading. She was proud as a pickle. Happy as a clam.

She knew this was an option, because last week Grandma did it, and the kids loved it.

So for now, we'll have virtual storytime instead of in-person bedtime stories.

We'll have videos of Nana and Poppa reading and checking in with the kids instead of catching up under a cozy blanket on the couch.

We'll talk on FaceTime over dinner at two different tables, chatting about our day instead of sharing a meal together at one.

We'll have a Zoom Easter party virtually connecting under different roofs, instead of celebrating under the same one.

We'll send colorful pictures or handwritten notes in the mail instead of delivering them with our own two hands.

We'll figure it out. This is hard. But we can do hard things.

We can still laugh.

We can still see each other's faces, hear each other's voices.

And we can still stay in touch.

The connection may be virtual right now, but it's not virtually impossible. Thank you, grandparents, for still supporting our families—even from a distance.

Love + Village

Pregnancy brings so many questions, but giving birth during a pandemic can be plain overwhelming. It likely seems as if your questions are never-ending, and the more answers you get, the more questions come up.

There is likely so much on your mind right now:

Will I need to give birth without my partner?

Will I have limited pain relief options?

Am I going to be separated from my baby?

It's so much to think about, and it can feel scary.

As you think about your birth, one of your biggest fears is likely a sense of having a lack of control throughout this process. Mama, you are not alone. Thousands of couples are in the same boat, and I want to share some ways to cope with this shift.

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Ultimately, I want you to know that it is still possible to have a good birth, even if it is different than what you had originally hoped for.

As a doula, here are tips for giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Grieve for the experience you didn't get.

Hold space for yourself. Hold space for the expectations that you had for yourself and your birth experience. It's okay to be sad, or mad, or scared, or even a little resentful that this pandemic has disrupted your perfectly planned birth goals. One of the best things to remind yourself is that while you can't control what happens, you can control how you react to them.

If your difficult feelings are impacting you significantly, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health therapist for help via virtual services.

2. Prepare for a new kind of birth.

More important than grieving the birth you won't have is finding the energy to adapt. Now more than ever is the time to get creative with how you will adjust your expectations to help you have a controlled birth experience despite the current outbreak.

A great way to start is by taking a birth class—there are plenty of online classes like Motherly's Becoming Mama™ Online Birth Class. Books can help, too, like The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama, which releases on April 14th, 2020.

The Birth Lounge Membership for expecting parents is another great service to check out. Surrounding yourself with positive, evidence-based information will help you feel more confident during this uncertain time.

Look for resources that comfort and inform you.

3. Advocate for yourself.

You may find that your appointments with your doctor or midwife are canceled or rescheduled. This doesn't mean you no longer have access to your medical provider—it just means they don't think the prenatal appointment was worth the risk of exposure for you.

However, you can request that a nurse, midwife or obstetrician give you a call to answer the questions you were planning to discuss at your appointment. You aren't alone, and help is still available to you.

4. Brace for the aesthetics.

When you arrive at the hospital to have your baby, you may see a different set-up than you are used to. There may be tents set up outside, security guards and nurses at the doors checking everyone's temperature, and medical staff in what appears to be hazmat gear! What a shock this will be. So spend some time coming to terms with it, and remind yourself that even though it looks scary, its intention is to keep everyone safe.

Say to yourself, "I am safe. My baby is safe."

5. Labor at home as long as possible (with your provider's approval).

This pandemic is changing the way that people birth in so many ways. We've already seen nationwide restrictions to hospital policies, as well as restrictions around the number of support people allowed at the birth. Providers are asking patients to call before coming to the hospital and are providing screenings to all partners to assess for coronavirus infection.

If you are low-risk, your provider may encourage you to labor at home for a while.

Laboring at home can help to reduce your risk of exposure and it will also allow you to labor in your own space with your own rules and with your own people without the energetic weight of COVID-19 hanging over your head. Many providers are recommending such already.

Remember, you need to check in with your provider when labor starts. There are some essential questions they need to ask to make sure it is safe for you to labor at home.

6. Know your options.

Be mindful of the information you take in so you can make educated and informed decisions when it comes to your birth. This includes unfollowing or unfriended certain people on social media if you find that their content is unhelpful or stressful. Try to focus on reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or the March of Dimes.

One of the tough aspects of this pandemic is that expert recommendations are changing day to day—you will notice that even these organizations have opposing recommendations.

For example, the CDC recommends separating new moms and babies if coronavirus is suspected, while the WHO suggests leaving the two together for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. Consider what options feel best for you, and speak with your provider about your preferences, understanding that hospital policies may vary.

Something else to think about is pain medication. For example, some hospitals have suspended the use of nitrous oxide as it is an aerosol comfort measure, and there is a concern about the transmission of coronavirus.

7. Find the control.

When you notice yourself feeling anxious or worried about your birth, try finding the control in the situation.

Does your control lie in laboring at home for as long as possible?

Is your control in the fact that you've prepared for months for this moment?

Maybe you've realized that not that much will actually change for your birth plans, and that's what makes you feel in control.

Remember that you still get to have a say in the care you receive. You get to decide where you birth, and you get to decide what happens to your body during this time.

If you haven't heard the recent news, the Governor of New York put out orders declaring that one support person should be allowed for every laboring person—this extends to postpartum and recovery.

8. Remember that you are not alone.

There is power in numbers. There are so many parents who are on this journey of entering parenthood during a pandemic. While this is a difficult time, it's comforting to know that you're not the only one feeling this way.

Social distancing doesn't have to mean isolation. Take advantage of the technological advances we have in 2020 to harness the power of human connection. Your online village awaits you!

This is a scary time to be pregnant, but you are strong. You are not alone.

Thousands of parents across the country are navigating this story alongside you. While this is very different from anything you could have imagined, it doesn't have to be a bad experience. You still have so much control. The choice is yours. Take the time this quarantine has presented you with and use it to prepare for this new birth experience. You can do this.

Life

Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West have four young children and after self-isolating with her kids during the coronavirus pandemic Kardashian says that's probably as many as they'll ever have.

Speaking on The View this week, Kardashian explained: "Being at home with four kids...if I ever thought for a minute that I wanted another one—that is out the door. It's really tough. Really tough."

She continued: "My newfound respect for teachers—it's like, they deserve so much. It's been tough juggling it all and you really have to put yourself on the back burner and just focus on the kids."

Kim Kardashian West Shares Social Distancing Experience | The View www.youtube.com

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"I've been doing laundry and cooking," Kardashian West explained, which suggests that her household staff is not working during the family's self-isolation.

"Today was the first day that I actually brushed my hair and put on some makeup," she explained, adding that her sister Kylie Jenner came over to do her makeup for the TV appearance, and aside from their mom Kris Jenner coming over for a 6-foot-apart chat, that's the only extended family company she's had in a while.

Her kids, 6-year-old North, 4-year-old Saint, 2-year-old Chicago and baby Psalm have not been able to see their cousins, which is hard because they're all so close. Kardashian West told The View's co-hosts that while she actually enjoys the break from her family's usually jam-packed travel schedule, she's running out of activities around the house, and that her family has watched "every single movie that you can imagine" already.

There's nothing wrong with a little extra screen time during this challenging time Kim, but if you need more activities we've got plenty of ideas!

News

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone whose life hasn't been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. People are losing their jobs. Doctors and nurses are putting their own lives at risk to work on the front lines. Parents are expected to work from home while homeschooling their own children.

There have been many articles circulating the Internet with tips and tricks for being stuck at home with kids during a pandemic. There are free online childbirth courses being offered for pregnant women. There are memes going around about a coronavirus baby boom coming in nine months.

But what about those who desperately want to become parents and have to rely on assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF in order to do so?

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According to Resolve.org, 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Many of those couples choose to undergo fertility treatments in hopes of starting, or in many cases, growing their families. However, due to the ongoing health crisis, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recently issued new guidance for its members as they manage patients in the midst of the pandemic. And let's just say the recommendations are not ideal for those hoping to get pregnant sooner rather than later.

The ASRM is now urging healthcare providers to suspend the initiation of all new treatment cycles, including ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and non-urgent gamete cryopreservation (egg freezing), and to consider the cancellation of all embryo transfers, whether fresh or frozen.

They are advising Reproductive Endocrinologists to continue to care for patients who are currently 'in-cycle' or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation, but to suspend elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures. They are also encouraging doctor's offices to minimize in-person interactions and increase the utilization of telehealth.

While these guidelines are undoubtedly in the best interest of the patients, as well as the doctors and nurses who treat them, this also means that many couples are being given no other choice than to put their family-planning goals on hold for the foreseeable future. And as anyone who has been through infertility knows, this kind of news can be completely devastating to someone who already feels like their fertility journey has been one big waiting game.

In my own experience, when undergoing fertility treatments, each month starts with a renewed sense of hope. You think to yourself, Maybe this will be the month that I finally see those two pink lines. You take hormones, give yourself injections and have seemingly endless amounts of doctor's appointments and blood draws. If that ends in a negative pregnancy test, all of the hope that was there at the beginning comes crashing down, only to have to do it all over again the following month. This process takes a toll on you, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

Infertility can be all-consuming. That's why when others say, "Just relax and it will happen," that isn't very helpful. Waiting "just a few more months" can feel like a lifetime to someone who has already been waiting too long.

So, to all of those who were about to start an IUI or IVF cycle after years of trying to conceive only to have it be postponed, I see you. To all those who were awaiting surgery in hopes of getting to the bottom of their infertility diagnosis, I see you.

You have every right to be frustrated that your plans have been put on hold yet again.

You have every right to be upset, and even angry, that you can't use this extra time at home to "just have sex and get pregnant" like everybody else.

You're allowed to feel all of your feelings during this time.

But when you do pick yourself back up—and you will—try to think of this as a physical and mental break from the usual demands of fertility treatments. A break from the injections, the hormones, the doctor's appointments, the acupuncture sessions, the demanding schedules and the commute to and from work. Use this time to do all of the things you enjoyed before infertility took over your life.

Find yourself again.

Start a new workout regimen, read a book, meditate. Tell yourself you are capable—of getting pregnant, of staying pregnant, of being stronger than you think, of doing hard things—and keep saying it until you believe it wholeheartedly. Put yourself in the best possible mindset for starting again when all of this is over, because it will be over, eventually.

And you will have your chance, I promise. All you can do is what is within your control right now. It's all any of us can do. But that doesn't make it any easier, I know.

You've got this. And if you need extra support, check out the amazing community over at The Fertility Tribe where you will find real stories from real women who are also 1 in 8.

We are redefining fertility, together, because honestly, who can do this alone?

Life
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