School is right around the corner, and your baby is headed for Kindergarten for the first time. Sometimes I think it may be more scary for us parents than for the child, but we all know it can be frightening for them too. We want our children to be prepared and feel secure when they go to school, and when they ride the bus for the first time. I have put four children through Kindergarten, and believe me I cried when each one got on the bus for the first time. It does get easier, but the hardest was when my youngest stepped on the bus for the first time. I came to realize that he was the last child, and there will be no more babies for us.
As parents, we often wonder if our children are developmentally and emotionally ready for Kindergarten. We want to make sure they have the skills they need to make things easier for them. In this two part series, I will share some suggestions for how you can help prepare your child for Kindergarten in all of the ways that count. Part one focuses on preparing your child emotionally, mentally and socially.
1) Talk about the fun things they will learn and do in school. - Talking to your child and re-assuring them will help them feel more at ease. Tell them about the things they will do at school. About the fun games they will play, the new friends they will make, the things they will learn. Share some of your memories of your school days and what you experienced. Explain how a general day at school works – lessons, activities, games, snack time, lunch time, music, arts and crafts – so they have an idea of what to expect. Who knows, they may even get excited!
2) Socialization - Some children are very shy and prefer to be by themselves. Some may not have other siblings at home. As a result, they do not get a lot of socialization with other children or adults. Going to school for the first time, children need to be able to get along with and interact with other children. They also need to know how to listen to and mind other adults. There are a few different ways you can help your child develop their socialization skills. For example, take your child to the park and encourage them to play with other children. Know of another family down the street with a child around the same age as yours? Invite them for a play-date and encourage them to play games or even have lunch together. Leave your child with a trusted adult for a couple hours while you run errands.
3) Visit the school - Taking your child to see the school and meet their teacher before the big day, can make a world of difference in their confidence and comfort levels. I realize this may not always be possible, but if you can it will help. Many schools actually have an open house before Kindergarten begins for this exact reason. Make an effort to attend. If you cannot, or if your school does not offer this, see about scheduling a time with the school and teacher where you can bring your child to visit. Let them walk around the room. Show them where they will hang their coat. If the school is an all day Kindergarten, show them where the lunchroom is. Encourage your child ask any questions of the teacher they may have. A child that is prepared is more confident.
4) Help your child prepare for transportation - If your child will be riding the bus, you can help him or her prepare for this new experience by talking to them about it. Explain to your child what their routine will be like, such as what time they will need to be on the bus and where they will sit. Discuss rules such as staying in their seat, listening to their driver and following instructions. Tell them what the experience may be like. To make it less scary, tell them about which friends may be on their bus too! Ask if they have any questions or concerns. Most important, you do not want your child to see any anxiety you may have as they will easily pick up on your emotions, and this could make it even harder.
5) Discuss Fears- Your child will most likely have some fears and this is very normal. They may worry about how they are going to find their classroom, or how they are going to get home once school gets out. If they are riding the bus, they may worry about getting on the wrong bus. Explain to your child that someone will direct them to the correct bus (my children’s school did that with the Kindergartners). Let them know that the school has all the appropriate information on file such as phone numbers, bus number, who is picking them up, etc. so they will not get left behind or lost. It is important to stay positive for your child so that they have the same outlook and feel comfortable.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the second part of this series where I will share some more ideas for helping your child prepare for Kindergarten.