When I taught Kindergarten, prior to having my own children, I noticed each September that the transition for parents was often as wrought with emotion as it was for the five-year-olds. We built in plenty of time to help ease the children into the school year but I now think we could have done more to equip moms and dads with strategies and tools so that they could help themselves and their children start off on a positive note.
Preparation is the most obvious way to get yourself and your child ready for a new experience. This is where literature can be so helpful. Books with social stories such as “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn and “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes are a great way to develop talking points while spending quality time. Local librarians and your child’s teacher may have book lists and recommendations.
Incentives can go a long way with a child who has difficulty transitioning. In the car on the way to school or at the breakfast table, tell your child what will happen after school. This does not have to be going to pick out a new toy at the store, but can be as simple as planning to have a favorite snack together or play a favorite board game. I can recall so many excited little faces telling me with great satisfaction exactly what they would be doing when they got home from school. Other incentives can include a special sticker on a chart for giving a quick kiss goodbye and skipping in the door or working toward and end of week ‘treat’ for being cooperative in the mornings.
Building in predictable and sustainable routines early can set the tone for stress free mornings for your child even as you race to get everyone out the door with what they need and where they need to be on time. Think about ways to make your Kindergartener as self reliant as possible with these routines. Is there a place where he/she can unpack and repack the back pack each day? Can clothing be laid out the night before? What about laminating a check list that you and your child can mark off together each morning? The same goes in the classroom as at home, when children know what is expected of them and outcomes are predictable, they feel more secure and confident.
Don’t forget to build in time at the end of the day to hear all about your child’s experience. Be sure to use open ended questions to get the most information instead of simply, “How was your day?” This is also where it is critical to avoid making judgements when you hear recess stories.
Finally, we all sometimes cringe to realize that our own insecurities can be so easily passed along to our children. Have confidence in your child’s teacher and only let your child hear you speak in a positive manner about him or her. Remember that for the first several weeks of school, the teacher will be devoting a lot of time to getting to know the students, building classroom routines, assessing skills and creating a safe and happy environment where the learning can take place.
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