Two years ago, Mr and Mrs Tan dropped their daughter off at the doors of NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool pre-school in Serangoon. The two-year-old girl had a chronic disorder known as cyclical vomiting syndrome, which causes recurrent episodes of nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

 Over the next few months, she would regularly burst into tears at school, suck on two of her fingers when she was nervous and was reluctant to go for long walks. This riddled her mother — who dropped her off at school every day — with anxiety, helplessness and guilt.

Each day, lead teacher Lai Mei Sum, 30, would receive mother and child with open arms at the entrance of the pre-school. She was determined to be their constant in a time of change and believed that her role as an early childhood educator was as much about building a strong and trusting relationship with parents as it was about helping their child grow.

To ease Mrs Tan’s fears, Ms Lai would update her on the daily progress of her child. She also made a consistent and determined effort to look after the girl’s emotional and social well-being. Her efforts paid off. After months of encouraging and engaging with her charge, the pre-schooler stopped crying in school, ceased to suck on her fingers and now enjoys walking.

“Effective communication is essential in building relationships between an early childhood educator, children and their families,” shares Ms Lai.

Constant encouragement, coupled with effective parent-teacher communication, facilitated an encouraging environment in which the child was able to grow mentally and emotionally. 

To this end, Ms Lai takes special care to ensure that parents are always kept in the loop on their child’s progress. She uses the school’s online parent portal and arranges face-to-face meetings with parents to keep them updated on the latest activities in school.

In 2018, Ms Lai received the ECDA Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Development — Promising Early Childhood Educarer Award. Mr and Mrs Tan were key supporters of her nomination.

“Ms Lai’s patient and loving demeanour has helped to build a system of trust among us. Our daughter has learnt values and independence from her too.”