Ask BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

Q: My wife and I just moved to the Palisades and noticed that there aren’t any secular preschools. We aren’t religious and are concerned that if we send our son to one of these preschools, he will be getting mixed messages about religion. Are we right to be concerned?

BBB: Right you are. There are no secular preschool programs in the Palisades. (There are, however, a few Family Day Cares in private homes.) In the past both the YMCA and Palisades Park have had programs for children five and under but not actual licensed preschools.

I believe the answer to your question lies in whether or not you practice a particular religion, as opposed to identifying with the religion. If you do not, there won’t be a mixed message. I know many non-Jews who sent their children to Jewish preschools because they liked the program. Likewise, I know Jewish families whose children attended a wide variety of Christian programs. All appreciated the values and morals that were a part of the programs.

Frankly, I think there is not much harm done if it doesn’t undermine your religious affiliation/beliefs or isn’t somehow threatening to you. When religion is not practiced or supported at home, it isn’t usually fully absorbed.  And most young children enjoy following in their parents’ footsteps.

If you would like some help finding a secular preschool close to the Palisades, I am happy to consult with you.

Q: My 5th grader is very nervous about making the leap to middle school next year. She is dreading it, what should I tell her to ease her fears?

BBB: Of course your daughter is nervous about moving onto Middle School. It’s a big step for sure. Remember, nervous and excited are kissing cousins. While not making a big deal of it, helping your daughter to understand that everyone is nervous and excited about such a leap is a good start.

Talk to her about how people can feel two feelings at the same time, as in nervous and excited. In fact, every year with every new grade, most kids are excited and nervous, even when it’s not a new school. When we don’t know the ropes—where the classrooms are, who the teachers are, the locations of the bathrooms, with whom you’ll eat lunch—it makes most people worry.

Do you know the biggest source of worry for incoming Middle Schoolers?  Not being able to work the locks on their lockers!  (Buy a padlock and practice!)

With your daughter, make a list of all the things about her Middle School that she wonders about. Make a second list of all the things she is excited about. And finally make a list of the things she is nervous about. You might even make a video of her talking about it out loud, with you interviewing her.

After the first day of school, go back to your lists (or play the video) and see how many of the worry sources have been relieved, questions she can answer. It will be a great learning experience. And when in the future she is nervous and excited, you can refer back, “Remember the first day of Middle School?” reminding her to be patient with herself.

Note: We received so many terrific questions from our Palisadian-Post subscribers that my “monthly” column will appear a second time this month when I will answer two more questions.


Betsy Brown Braun, bestselling author of the award-winning book Just Tell Me What to Say and You’re Not the Boss of Me is a child development and behavior specialist, parenting expert and multiple birth parenting consultant. She consults with parents privately and runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers and other professionals. She is a frequent guest on radio and television – including the Today Show, Good Morning America and The Rachael Ray Show – and her parenting expertise has been featured in numerous print publications, websites and blogs. She and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have three grandchildren, so far. Visit:, and Twitter @BetsyBBraun.