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Home >  Information A-ZAll Kids Information ArticlesPreparing your Child for Kindergarten

Preparing your Child for Kindergarten
by Dr. David Lowenstein

There’s no denying it - Kindergarten is a big deal. To your child, this means a new “big kid school,” a new teacher, new kids, new routine, and a completely unknown adventure that is probably the biggest event to date in his/her young life. It’s no wonder that the first day of Kindergarten creates a host of anxieties for most kids. Fortunately, there are ways to make starting Kindergarten an exciting event for kids and a smooth transition for the entire family.

Although your child may seem excited for Kindergarten, any big change like this can provoke anxiety and stress. The vast majority of kids are more worried about this big event than they let on. Anxiety shows itself in many forms including: not sleeping, fighting with siblings, forgetfulness, hyperactivity, and regression to earlier behaviors like bedwetting. These behaviors may emerge as early as two weeks before the big day. Be aware that starting Kindergarten may well be the cause. Address your child’s concerns and let him/her know that having these feelings is perfectly normal. Then take steps to lessen his/her anxieties.

Here are just a few ideas that will make this stressful time easier for everyone:

* Most important, calm down! As a parent, your own anxieties about the “Big K” may be showing through. Your child can sense if you are overly nervous. Keep a positive, upbeat, and confident attitude and your child will take cues from you.

* Create positive excitement with a countdown calendar displayed in an area of your home where you child can see and reach it (like the refrigerator door) and mark down the days until the first day of school.

* Become familiar with Kindergarten curriculum, and describe to your child some of the things she will learn while at Kindergarten. Build confidence by pointing out the things she may already know.

* Help your child pick out a special lunch box and/or book bag, and include him in placing his name on personal items. This will help your child feel empowered and part of the planning process.

* Tell your child a story about your first day of Kindergarten. If you have other children who have already been to Kindergarten, enlist them to tell their own first day story (as long as it was a good experience!)

* To lessen your child’s fears about unknown situations, like getting hurt or needing help in the bathroom, ask her to play a game with you in which she shares the situations she may be worried about. Together, review what she would do in those scenarios.

* At least a few days before school starts, pick out a new outfit that your child can wear to school and tell him how great and grown up he looks.

* During the months leading up to the big day, take your child to the school so that she can see her classroom and become familiar with the bathrooms, lunchroom and playground.

* Make an appointment for your child to meet the teacher before school begins. If possible, introduce him to the school nurse and the principal so he knows who is also available for help and comfort.

* Create a routine similar to the school routine several weeks in advance. Adjust your child’s bedtime, lay out clothes the night before, and find a special place to keep the school bag. By the time the first day of school rolls around, this process will feel familiar.

* If possible, take time and stay in the classroom for the first half-hour of the class. Help your child get adjusted to the other kids, new surroundings and the teacher. But then leave! Don’t prolong your good-byes; it will only make it harder.

* Before class begins, introduce your child to some of the other classmates to help break the ice.

* After the first day of school, make some special time to discuss your child’s day. Go out to dinner to celebrate a great first day at school. Remind your child that there are many more terrific days to come in Kindergarten!

Like any type of transition, the start of Kindergarten can create a variety of anxieties for kids, whether it’s apparent or not. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your child is taking it in stride. By planning ahead and implementing some of these ideas and activities, you’ll lessen your child’s stress and make this big step as smooth as possible.

Dr. David Lowenstein is a Psychologist with over twenty-five years of clinical experience in his private practice in Columbus, OH. He specializes in individual, group and family therapy with children and adolescents. Dr. Lowenstein conducts workshops for Parent-Teacher organizations on a variety of relevant topics.


©2005 Los Angeles Family Magazine

 

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