The big day is fast approaching, and your little one will soon begin kindergarten, or as my kid’s like to say “big kid school”. As every child is unique, each one will adjust and assimilate in their own way, at their own pace. Below you’ll find a few things each family can do to help their child take that big step to kindergarten, and how you can continue to smooth the transition in the month to come.
Kids comprehend their surroundings internally and often express their thoughts through play. Watch and see what tones and storylines they come up with when they are playing school. Our daughter helped us understand that she worried the teacher would be mean, by acting that out innocently as she played. She never mentioned this verbally, but it became clear that she was afraid that she wouldn’t like her teacher. After watching for a few minutes we were able to interject and say, “Oh but wait, most teachers are the nicest people you’ll ever meet – especially kindergarten teachers! So the teacher in your game is very unusual.”
Normalize back to school
You can do this by bringing it up in casual conversation, always keeping things light. Talk to your child about other kids they know who go to school, or what school they attend. Kids love hearing about when you were young, so take a trip down memory lane to when you were first in school and tell your child what you loved the most. Buy a book or two that involves the main character going to school, if you don’t yet own any. Lastly, visit their school as often as possible so they are familiar with the building and going there from your home. Even if you can’t do an interior tour, seeing the outside is helpful. It will make the first day much less intimidating.
Get them involved in preparations
Who doesn’t want to save all of their shopping for when the kids are in bed? But with back to school shopping, it’s best to involve your little ones, so help them feel a part of it and take ownership over this next step. Let your little one choose her own backpack, and a few extra staples for the fall season. Start brainstorming ideas for lunches and snacks, and let your child be involved in meal prep.
After the first day
The transition isn’t over once they actually start school – it’s just beginning. Kindergarten teachers understand the whole month of September to be a transition for the child and they will often be extremely laid back with the children the first month. October is often the month where teachers tighten up on rules and expectations, as the kids have had time to adjust to the new environment. This means for the whole month of September, your child should be gradually easing in to the new way of life at school. You can help them by asking pointed questions at the end of the day and then again a few hours later. Right after school you’ll get passion and a fresh memory, but they’re also usually really tired and hungry. Once they’re in the their comfort zone at home, they may be more reflective and less emotional. Avoid general questions like “how was your day”, which will almost never yield more than a simple “fine” in response. Instead, try, “did anything happen today that scared you?” or “what happened today to make you laugh?”
Starting school is a giant leap for our little ones, and it’s bound to be met with the whole gamut of emotions. It’s your job as their parents to be even-tempered, positive, and empathetic. It is scary and hard being in a new place with a room full of strangers, so don’t be so positive that your child feels alone in those emotions. As hard as it can be, try to keep it together on their first day of school and do your best not to cry. For all of us criers out there (and I am definitely in this group!), this is a challenge. But save the tears for once you’re home or at work, and instead let them see your happy encouraging face as you send them off.