By Shellie McSwain, kindergarten teacher for 13 years
Starting kindergarten can be a nerve-racking experience for both you and your child. For some children, kindergarten marks the first time that they will spend a prolonged period of time away from family, which can be hard for your kiddo (and you!) to adapt to. But kindergarten doesn’t have to be scary! The following tips will help to kick those nerves and get you and your child excited for the start of school.
How can parents calm their kiddo’s nerves?
As a mom of two and a kindergarten teacher, I have found that a positive and reassuring attitude is always best. Communicating to your child that you are confident in his new school and teacher will help him to feel better about his new adventures in kindergarten. You should also help him to understand that kindergarten may be very different from his experience in preschool — not better or worse, just different.
If they have never been to school before, what is the first thing that parents should do to help them adjust?
If a child has never been to school before, starting kindergarten can be a little intimidating. Visiting as many group activities as possible over the summer, like the children’s book time at the public library or other short, structured activities with other children in her age group, is very helpful. While she is enjoying the adult-led activity, try to be as hands off as possible so that she can have the experience with your support from a distance.
What kinds of things can parents do during the summer to help their kids become adjusted to kindergarten?
With both of my children, I did a “Countdown to Kindergarten” during the summer months. Each day on the countdown had a fun school-related activity for them to do that helped them to gear up, review information that they had previously learned in preschool and get excited about starting school. You can find many premade examples of “Kindergarten Countdowns” online.
What should parents expect in their first day/week of kindergarten?
The first week of kindergarten is very tiring for most kids. Even if your child has never been a napper, expect him to be exhausted from a long day of having fun learning at school. He may need some extra rest in the first few weeks until he has adjusted to the routine. Your child will also probably be hungrier than usual due to making the switch from being able to snack throughout the day to more scheduled eating times, so be ready with a snack after school.
Parents should expect many papers to be filled out, letters from the teacher, classroom schedules, supply lists, procedural information and getting-to-know-your-family questionnaires to come home within the first few weeks of school. It will be very important for your child to be on the lookout for these important papers so you can stay well-informed.
What is normal behavior for parents to see in their kiddos?
Besides being more tired than usual, parents may see some worry over making new friends or not knowing the routine of the kindergarten day in the first weeks of school, even for those children who have attended preschool. Reassurance from parents that all of these things will come in time and modeling the basics of how to make new friends will help to put your child’s mind at ease.
As a parent, should you let them see you cry? Should be you nervous? What should you do to stay calm?
Although it is important for your child to understand that feelings of nervousness or anxiety are normal, allowing your child to see you cry as she starts her new adventure in kindergarten without you by her side is a bad idea. Children may feel that they are the cause of your nervousness or that there is some reason to be scared of the new experience. It is essential that your child feel your trust in the teacher and the school that she will be attending. So, put on a brave face; you are both going to make it!
What should you NOT do as a parent during the first day/week?
You can feel confident that your child’s teacher knows what to do with your child when he steps through the door on the first day. Walking him in, giving him some supportive words along with his hug and kiss goodbye and then setting him free will go a long way to helping him understand that everything will be just fine. If your child is feeling nervous and a little clingy, that is normal, but the longer you stick around, the harder it will be for him to start feeling more comfortable without you there. Kindergarten is a place of new beginnings and the start of your child understanding that he is capable of being independent. Cheer him on!