Even kids who have been through pre-school know that kindergarten is an entirely different experience. They see references to kindergarten on TV and listen to other family members talk about it. Because young children don’t process information in the same way adults do, they may misinterpret what they see and hear, and start worrying about the first day of school.
Fortunately, there are simple things that parents can do to help make the first day of kindergarten easy and fun. The key ingredients are managing your own anxiety, and communicating in a way that fits with your child’s level of intellectual and emotional development.
Manage your own anxiety.
Focus on your child’s opportunities for learning and for making new friends. If you’re one of those parents who constantly worries about safety, consider that accidents at school are far fewer than those at home.
Also, keep in mind that it’s common for young children to miss their parents, and most will quickly adapt. Being calm yourself can go a long way in easing any anxiety that your child might have about going to school.
Help your child mentally prepare.
- Kids at this age think in very concrete terms. Therefore, when you talk to them about kindergarten be factual. Discuss where they will be, what they’ll see, and what they’ll do.
- Take your child to the school prior to the first official day. If possible, arrange to visit the kindergarten classroom and to meet the teacher. Point out the location of the bathroom.
- Mention familiar things your child may find at school, such as picture books and brand new markers and crayons. Describe typical situations, such as how everyone lines up to go outside.
- If your child will be riding on the school bus, talk about what it looks like inside and what to do when it arrives at the school. You can even play “school bus” together by arranging a few chairs in rows.
- To help your child feel socially connected, arrange play dates with peers who will be starting kindergarten at the same school.
- Avoid saying anything that might arouse anxiety in your child, such as “I’ll miss you when you go to school.”
- Don’t give reassurances unless your child asks for it. Unsolicited advice like, “If the big kids start fighting with you, tell the teacher right away,” can make kids more apprehensive, especially if the possibility of such events never occurred to them.
Above all, relax.
The first day of kindergarten does not predict future school experience. Even if it doesn’t go that well, most kids recover quite quickly.
Photo courtesy of Lance Nishihira (via Flickr)