For many parents, Kindergarten signals a major milestone from the all-consuming baby and toddler years. Suddenly, your ‘baby’ is expected to make more choices on their own, stay focused over a longer period of time, learn new skills and navigate a social circle with less oversight from you. Plan ahead to pave the road to a happier Kindergarten kick-off for all.
Calm Kindergarten jitters. Build excitement and optimism for school. Shop together for a new backpack or lunchbox, school supplies and new clothes. “Even if parents are feeling nervous, they should do their best not to portray that to their child,” says Kathy Weller, a Kindergarten teacher. “Be very upbeat about the upcoming new experience.”
Read together. Reading to your child not only teaches valuable listening skills, it’s a great time to help your child prepare for the Kindergarten experience. Check out books like The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing and Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis.
Tackle a few skills. While knowing their colors, the ABCs and how to count to 10 will give your child a head start. Work on other skills like teaching them to tie their shoes and their full name and birthday.
Plan transportation. Avoid transportation snafus by sticking to a plan and keeping your child (and the teacher) informed. If your child will ride the bus and is nervous, listen and reassure them. Also, seek out a ‘bus buddy’ for your child, whether a responsible older neighbor child or another bus-riding classmate.
Good eats, solid zzz’s. Make sure your new kindergartener gets plenty of rest and eats healthy meals, which will help them better manage the stress of the transition and stay focused during school. Wake up a little earlier to avoid a rushed first day.
Collaborate with the teacher. Share insights about your child’s strengths with the teacher to help them understand what motivates and interests your child. “Parents should approach school with the idea that the teacher has their child’s best interest at heart,” says Dr. Holly Schiffrin, an associate professor, who specializes in child development and parenting practices. “The parent should convey that they are on the same team as the teacher (even if they have different ideas about how to assist their child).”
Journal. Sometimes, it’s hard to get a child to discuss their day. “Keeping a daily journal of their day (with mom’s help) is a fun way to get your kids to talk about school,” says Wendy Hughes, a Kindergarten teacher. “Ask your child to tell you some funny or interesting things that may have happened that day.”
Managing adversity. Every child is bound to have a rough day. Encourage them to resolve their own problems and take responsibility for their actions. “Ask your child for her input and perspective, genuinely listen, acknowledge and empathize, and then shift the focus toward reaching solutions as a family and in unison with your teachers and school,” says parent coach Tom Limbert, author of Dad’s Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time. “Focus on giving your child the tools, morals and lessons she will need when not in your presence, which will now be more and more often.”
Freelance writer, wife and mom of two, Christa can’t help but feel a sad little twist in her heart as she prepares to see her baby off to Kindergarten this year.
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