Summer is coming to an end. All the ‘back-to-school’ sales are in full swing. You’ve probably already bought your soon-to-be kindergartener a new backpack, lunch box, and wardrobe. But are you ready for the first day of school? More importantly, is your child ready?
There are many ways to help prep a kid for the first day of kindergarten and you’ve probably been doing a lot of them already. But it’s coming up quick! Want to make sure the transition to kindergarten is as easy as possible? Follow these steps to pave the way. Let’s start the countdown: Five, four, three, two, one:
#5 Talk About It
Your child is probably experiencing many conflicting feelings about this new stage in her life, from being excited to being worried. But chances are she isn’t able to articulate them easily. Many five-year-olds don’t have the specific vocabulary to express their emotions. You can help by sharing a story about a time when you felt excited, nervous, or anxious about school. More than talk, you can listen, says Jerlean Daniel, Deputy Executive Director at The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She suggests that parents “make themselves available to hear any concerns a child might have about school.” Letting the child take the lead can result in some pretty rich discussion, Daniel says. “A concern about ‘will I have any friends,” might lead to a wonderful conversation about strategies for making friends,” she says. Plus, it gives parents the opportunity to “remind the child of other times when he or she did not know anyone and how they made friends.”
#4 Make a Routine Chart
Even if your child has been going to preschool for some time, the shift to kindergarten is big. The NAEYC suggests making a chart to help your child get used all the changes in his routine. This is a great parent-child activity and an excuse to talk through what’s coming, in advance. For example, be sure to include the details of your child’s new morning ritual. Detail when he will wake up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, wash his face, comb his hair, get dressed, and walk to school. If there will be more than one person taking him to school, include them all on the chart, as well as the days each person will drop your son off.
Use pictures or photographs to make it easy for your kindergartener to read his chart independently. Having visuals so he can look at what happens next, will comfort your child and actually get him excited to move through the list, making getting out of the house in the morning much smoother. And that means everyone has a better day!
#3 Do a Practice Run
Five-year-olds, like most of us, feel more comfortable when they know what to expect. If meeting the teacher ahead of time is a possibility, make sure to do it. But even if it’s not, you can still do a test run! Go to the school a week or two before classes begin and walk around the campus. Show your child where the kindergarten playground is, where his class is located, and how to get to the office. Who knows, there’s a good chance that you might even bump into another family doing the same thing!
A day or two before the ‘big day’ itself, have a dress rehearsal. Wake your child up and, using the new routine chart, follow your schedule from wakeup time all the way through drop-off. It will give you both an idea of how much time you’ll need in the morning and when the “real” day comes, you’ll both be more relaxed.
#2 Role Play
Kids at this age LOVE to pretend. Make up several possible scenarios that could arise the first week of school, and then practice a solution. For example, tell your child that you’re going to pretend that the teacher is talking, but she really has to go to the bathroom. Explain that all teachers hope that students can wait until they’re done talking, but no one wants an accident to happen. Then have your child practice raising her hand and waiting to be called on, without shouting out, “I have to pee!”
Think about other things that might come up as possible problems while your child is negotiating her new environment. Then for fun, let your child role play being the teacher, and you get to be the five-year-old. Humor is the best medicine for the jitters, so ham it up!
#1 The Introductions
Whether your child is Ms. Outgoing or Mr. Bashful, making introductions to a set of new faces can be tough. You want your child to make a good first impression, but introducing herself to the teacher and a class full of strangers can be a bit overwhelming. So what’s a parent to do? First of all, Daniel says, remain calm. “The teacher is used to this kind of initial shyness and will, over time, build a relationship with each of the children.” It just might not happen immediately.
Still worried that your child will freeze up when she comes eye-to-eye with her new teacher? You can help calm the initial jitters by helping her make a card for her teacher. This will definitely make a good impression, and it might be just what your child needs to take the pressure off.
Ready or not, here comes the big day! Even with lots of planning and preparation, there still might be a few bumps in the road. But it’s important to handle the weeks prior and the big day itself with confidence. No matter how nervous you are, try not to show it. If your child sees that you believe in her, she’ll believe in herself. So look strong. You can always let those tears fall when you get back to the parking lot!