As you do your shopping together, for backpacks, lunch kits, crayons, new clothes and more, your child starts to ask questions about what Kindergarten will be like.
"Will my teacher like me?"
"Will I make new friends?"
"When do I take a nap?"
"Who makes my lunch?"
"How do I go to the bathroom?"
"How will I know what bus to get on?"
"What if my teacher forgets about at recess?"
"How can I talk to you when I'm sad?"
"What if nobody likes me?"
"What if someone calls me names?"
...and the heart-wrenching moment for any parent "Do I have to go? Can't I stay at home with you?"
Kindergarten is an immense change for your child, even if they've been going to a pre-school or daycare. A new routine and people can be very overwhelming for your little one - as well as yourself. School stress can occur at any age, especially at an early age.
Preparing your child for Kindergarten may take more than the week before. There will be an adjustment period, where your child is more fatigued, and more irritable, as the days are more challenging with learning to read, write, and learning new social skills with friends they've just met. They're learning how to cope with aggression, and manage their emotions (no, you can't hit Bobby, same rules as at home, use your indoor voice, it's okay to be sad, etc).
Does your child's new school have an "Introduction to Kindergarten Day/Program"? It's a program where your child can take the bus (if applicable) with a parent to see what it's like, then spend a few hours getting to see the classroom, meet the teacher and other kids in their class, and absorb their environment. Then, they take the bus back home to see how they get on the bus after school. It's a great day to help calm their little minds, and big worries.
If your child's school doesn't have this program, inquire about taking your child into the school the week before. Most teachers are already in their classrooms a week before, and would probably just love to meet your child one-on-one.
Involve your child in the shopping aspect of getting ready. What clothes will make your child the most comfortable. Dresses for little girls are adorable, but are they play-appropriate? Are there lots of buttons on their pants? This can be a tricky thing when having to use the bathroom at a new place, and may cause accidents. Do you need to send a spare change of clothes in case of an accident, paint droppings or juice spillage? Leggings for little girls are great and easy to play in, change into, etc. Track pants or elastic waistbands are perfect for little boys who sometimes just don't have the time to worry about buttons and zippers!
Celebrate your child going into this new milestone! Maybe have a nice dinner the night before school starts with their favorite meal to celebrate what a big boy/girl they've become - or celebrate after the first day or week is done!
Consider getting your child on an earlier bedtime routine. Summer months have us keeping our children up later than normal, so setting a new routine for school will help with potential fatigue. And hey, what does a nap here and there hurt?
Finally, allow yourself to feel what you feel. Having your child head off for their first year of school can bring forth many emotions for you, the parent, as well. You are most likely overjoyed that you've gotten them this far, but are afraid to send them off into the school world. You may feel like your child is too young, or too shy, or too little to go to JK, or that they may be the victim of bullying. You may feel anxiety about your child being in the care of another. These are all normal emotions & feelings. Rest assured that you're not alone.
Is there a Parent Council you can join to ensure that your little student is being taken care of properly? Does your child have an agenda that the teacher signs and sends home daily? Ask your child about their day. Avoid the "What did you do at school today" question, as you'll often get the "I forget" answer, as they have a busy day, every day. Consider asking questions like "What did you paint today?" "What new songs did you learn?" "Did you fall asleep during naptime today?" "Did you have a nice day with your friends?" Showing your child that you're interested in their day will ease their anxiety, and will help you feel as ease as well, learning about their day.
As September is just a few weeks away, know that we are here for you to talk to. Sending your child off to school is a whirlwind of emotions, and we're here to provide support to you. 613-238-3311, anytime of day or night, we're here.
Best of luck to your littles, heading off to JK this year!