Thousands of children will soon make the transition from preschool or home to kindergarten. Some children will look forward to this moment with great anticipation, but others may experience some anxiety about leaving familiar surroundings. Regardless of how your child is feeling, parents play a powerful role in helping make the transition a smooth one.
Timing Is Everything
Now is the time to begin emotionally preparing your child (and yourself) for this new phase in life. Your attitude makes a big difference. Even if you are struggling with the idea of your little one going off to kindergarten, your goal is to deal with your emotions appropriately and prepare your child to make the most of this rite of passage.
Tips to Help You Prepare Your Child
- Visit the school where your child will be attending kindergarten.
- If your child has not been in the care of someone other than Mom and Dad, allow your child to stay with other trusted adults prior to kindergarten to help them get used to another adult being in charge.
- Plan activities with other children where your child has to learn to take turns and share.
- Point out colors and shapes at the grocery store and count apples, bananas or cereal boxes.
- Encourage active play, especially pretend-play, with other children.
- Read, read, read.
- Limit TV, computer, tablet or smartphone screen time.
- Encourage independence in managing daily tasks. For example, teach your child how to tie their shoes, let them set the table, make their bed, dress themselves, etc.
- Start your school routine early to help your child adjust to the change in schedule.
Dealing with Your Emotions
If this is your first child or your youngest child headed off to kindergarten, the transition may be more emotional than expected. Guard against behaviors that might upset your child. If you are anxious about being away from your child, talk with other parents who have already experienced it. Instead of going home to an empty house on the first day of school, plan to have coffee with a supportive friend.
While it can be scary to leave your child at school, remember this: Most teachers love children dearly. They care about their social and emotional development as much as they care about their academic growth.
Helping Your Child Through the First Week
The first week can be especially hard for your child. Here are some ways to make it easier:
- Be supportive. Adjusting to school may take time. Ask, "What was the most fun thing you did in school today?" Then ask, "What was the hardest thing for you?" Only ask this after you have discussed what was fun. Don't expect your child to tell you every detail.
- Instill a sense of confidence in your child. Celebrate your child's successes. It takes time to adjust to new people, new activities and a new environment. Don't expect perfection.
- Set aside a time each evening to share your child's day. See if your child has brought home any drawings, paintings or scribbling. After a few weeks have passed and your child has gotten used to school, ask about play in the classroom, stories the teacher read, recess, etc.
- Read everything the school sends home. During the first weeks of school, children bring home a wealth of information about routines, important dates and meetings that you will need to know about. Make sure to check your child's backpack daily.
- You may want to go over with your child — in a positive, calm way — the information you have supplied to the school on the emergency card. This includes who may pick your child up other than you, where she can go if you're ever not home, etc.
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Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!