Starting kindergarten can be very stressful for children, so ease the transition with these tips on how to handle the very first day of school for your kindergartner.
It’s hard to predict how a child will handle separation on the first day of kindergarten. Some kids will cling to their mom in terror, while others will skip happily off without even a parting glance in mom’s direction. If your child leans toward the former behavior, don’t be alarmed. Starting kindergarten is big step for children, and the anxiety they experience is a perfectly normal part of the developmental process. Nevertheless, there are ways you can make this transition easier for your child.
In the weeks before school begins, discuss kindergarten with your child. Express enthusiasm and excitement at all she is going to learn. Try to evoke responses from your child to see how she may be feeling. Don’t overdo it and don’t force the topic, if your child is not interested or seems unwilling to discuss it. The main idea is to make kindergarten something exciting to look forward to, rather than something to fear.
Try Time Away from You
Before your child starts school, you can gauge how he deals with separation anxiety with a trial run. Try leaving him with a relative or close family friend, or suggest a sleepover at Grandma’s house. See how your child reacts to being without you in a safe and supervised environment.
Set Up Playdates
Many schools distribute phone lists for each class of students before the school year begins. If you have such a list, try setting up playdates with your child’s future classmates. That way, when your child walks into class on the first day, she’ll see some familiar faces – her new friends.
Take a Token from Home
Ask your child if she would like to take something from home with her on her first day. Encourage her to choose something small and comforting, like a doll or a favorite sticker. The presence of a familiar object can give your child a sense of security in her new environment.
Spend some time in your child’s classroom on the first day. Introduce your child to the teacher and the other kindergartners, and point out the bathroom, the lunch area, and your child’s cubby and coat hook. If the teacher has set up an arts and crafts activity to occupy and engage children, try to get your child involved in the activity.
Respond to Distress
If your child is acutely anxious, do not scold or ridicule his distress, and do not try to bribe him into behaving. Just remain cheerful and reiterate that you will be back to pick him up at the end of the school day. Remind him that he will be learning exciting new things, and take some time to have him talk to the teacher.
Make your goodbye cheerful and brief. Don’t come back after you have already said goodbye, and don’t slip out of the room unnoticed. Some children like a goodbye ritual, such as two hugs or a secret wave from the window. Again, remind your child when you will return, and make sure you are not late picking her up!