She’s MY baby.
And now I have to share her with world, and trust that she will be well-cared for.
That’s what kindergarten felt like for me nine years ago as I prepared to take my five-year-old to her first classroom.
Yes, she attended preschool for two years a couple of days a week. But this was different. This was the beginning of something new, something that was going to last for many years to come.
Come tomorrow, many other families will experience similar bouts of worry, excitement, loss and chaos, especially those first-timers, as they bring their children to the doors of kindergarten and leave them for several hours. And children may, or may not, also experience anxiety and fear as they approach their classroom.
We went to a couple of our wonderful kindergarten teachers, Laura Hofmann and Candace Teal from Santa Susana Elementary School, to ask what parents and kids can do to prepare for kindergarten? After 28 combined years of teaching mostly kindergarten, they had a lot of offer:
1. Bring your kids to the school before the first day. Let them see where the playground is, where their classrooms will be and more. “If we’re here, we’re happy to meet them,” Laura says.
2. Be excited for them! School and learning are fun! This is a big step for all of you, and it’s up to parents to set the tone.
3. Step out a typical class day for them to the best of your ability. Tell them about the different things they will learn, the friends they will make, the fun activities they will do. Answer their questions as best you can. Sometimes what we think is not an issue at all is a huge issue for a child, like where the bathroom is or what they will eat for lunch.
4. There are plenty of books about starting school. Hunt them down and read them to your kids before school starts. Here are a couple of examples:
5. Do attend any parent orientations offered. Most schools do schedule these right before school starts and it helps our level of anxiety to know what can be expected.
6. Tuck a photo or hand-drawn picture in their lunch bag. If they have a favorite pet or stuffed animal, make this your picture, and write a simple note on it for them.
7. Know that your teachers are ready for high emotions. Laura and Candace bring in extra adults (not room parents) to help during those first few days.
8. Do leave your children at the classroom door. Don’t walk in with them and don’t hang around the windows where you can be seen. There is truth to the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” and Candace says that many children do calm down and settle into their classroom much easier if mom/dad are not around.
9. If a teacher is faced with an inconsolable student, they will call you. It happens rarely, our teachers say, but they will call.
10. Schedule a playdate for yourself with a friend right after drop off (and having a friend going through a similar time is a blessing). Go to coffee or lunch. Be distracted until it’s time to get your child from school.
11. For some children, it may be a day or two before anxiety kicks in. Make sure you’re on alert for the first week or two.
School is a huge change for a child, but we can help them, and us, find the joy and fun in their new adventure.