Starting kindergarten is a big, but exciting transition in a child’s life. It can be scary and stressful for both you and your child, especially if this is your child’s first experience in school. However, if you take some steps to prepare yourself and your child for this new experience, you can ease some of the anxiety and get your child’s schooling off to a great start!
Start talking early. Start talking about kindergarten a few weeks before school starts. Tell your child all of the positive and exciting things about kindergarten, but also listen to him and answer his questions. Be sure to listen for emotions, such as excitement, fear, anxiety, and confusion. Provide not just answers to his questions but also comfort and reassurance to help him feel more confident about going to kindergarten.
Go for a visit. Find out if your child’s kindergarten class has an orientation or a visiting day. You and your child can meet the teacher(s) and other children who will be in the class as well as other parents, and you can find out what his daily schedule will be like. If not, take your child to the school, walk around the grounds together, and play on the playground.
Get to know other kindergarteners. If possible, organize a play date or two with children who will be in your child’s class. You may already know families with children the same age as yours, or you might meet some when you visit the school. You can also ask the teacher(s) if there are any families close by to you or new to the school, as well. This way, not every face in the classroom will be unfamiliar when your child goes to school the first day, and you can find other parents to share experiences with.
Get into a routine. In the weeks before your child starts kindergarten, establish a school day routine. Put your child to bed as if it were a school night and have her wake up in the morning and get ready (get dressed, have breakfast, wash up) as if it were a school morning. If this is your child’s first experience in a school setting, create a schedule during the day similar to that which she will experience in kindergarten to get her used to the structure. If your child will be taking lunch or snack, make sure that any containers and packages are user-friendly and labeled. If your child takes a backpack to school, make sure it is a good fit and easy for her to get on and off.
Practice everyday activities. If your child has never been to school before, there may be a few things you want to practice with your child in the weeks leading up to kindergarten. If you are not sure your child can do things like use the bathroom on his own, take off and put on his shoes, or put his jacket on, you may want to work on these things with him. Ask the classroom teacher(s) what your child will be expected to know how to do, and let them know if there is anything he struggles with.
Give it time. Leave plenty of time on the first day to arrive at school, especially if this is your child’s first school experience. When it is time for you to leave, make a point of saying goodbye. Sneaking out of the classroom when your child is not looking will make the transition far more difficult for him and may even scare him when he realizes that you are gone. It takes some children longer than others to adjust and become comfortable with the new school routine. Anticipate some ups and downs during the first few weeks. If you are struggling or have concerns about how the transition is going, ask your child’s teacher(s) for some ideas.