Trade Kindergarten Jitters for Success
by Amber Brandt
The process of growing up is full of “firsts.” Many firsts feel very nerve-wracking, and all carry at least some measure of uncertainty. At some point, every person faces a “first” that leaves them wondering if they’ll be good enough, if they’ll fit in, if they’ll know what to do. These experiences can stir up all sorts of emotions and require a good dose of bravery.
Your Kindergartener is no different. They’re facing one of the biggest “firsts” of their young life — starting school. Separation anxiety can be a real beast, but there are a few things you can do to help lessen your child’s worries.
Preparing for their first day of school:
- Attend an informational gathering at our building. Come ask questions, meet your child’s teacher, tour their classroom, hang from the monkey bars together and explore anything else that may give them a feel for what school days will be like. (Bonus if they meet a classmate they can look for on day one.)
- Read books together about going to school.
- Role play. Help your child imagine and act out what it will be like to interact with their teacher, fellow students, even the recess monitors. You can help your child problem solve potentially tricky situations too — like what to do if they feel scared or homesick. Common concerns children have are things like restroom policies or what/when they will eat. Ask your kids what they’re worried about then run through the scenarios together.
- Keep yourself calm. Let’s be real, the first day is nerve-wracking for everyone — parents included! You may feel emotional or worried too. That’s totally normal. Just be sure to maintain a level head. Your confidence will help your child approach their day confidently too.
- Speak honestly. While many parents think they have to maintain a brave face for their children at all times, a little vulnerability can go a long way. Share a personal experience with feeling unsure or nervous about one of your “firsts.” Validate their feelings and encourage them with the good that came out of bravely facing your “first.”
- Come up with a momento. Many experts encourage parents to find a pair of objects — something small that fits comfortably in a child’s pocket — then keep one for yourself and send one with your student. Anytime your child feels overwhelmed or needs you close, they can touch the object and be reminded of your love — even if it’s just a small stone or trinket. Your child will feel comforted knowing you’re going about your day doing the same thing.
- Invest in the power of routine. Take time to establish an evening routine and begin practicing it several nights leading up to your child’s first week at school. Make sure your routine includes space for the right things; a combination of down time, a healthy dinner, homework, bath, book and bed — whatever elements float your family’s boat. Work to create a repeatable flow — something expected and stable will pay dividends toward their peace-of-mind, especially when the rest of their life feels like so much flux.