This may be your child's first prolonged separation from parents or caregivers, and most (though not all) kids are thrilled to be in "real school." Still, there will be a period of adjustment, since your child will be spending the day in an unfamiliar building with teachers and kids he's never met before. Even children who are used to being away from parents in preschool will require time to transition to this new setting.
What kind of behavior can you expect to see in your child? Kindergarteners are exuberant and curious, eager to show off what they've learned and are wholeheartedly involved in the main job of the kindergartener: playing. By the end of the year, though, your relatively calm, enthusiastic learner may begin to resemble her terrible-two self. She's a bit more hesitant, a bit bossier, a bit more resistant to change. Some of her peers may know how to read already, though most don't, and she's fine with that. Her biggest challenge: learning the social skills of getting along with others. Sitting quietly, listening, raising her hand, lining up in a straight line, and learning to share (be it crayons or a teacher's attention) are all challenges.
Here are three ways to help your child thrive:
- Regular routines. Family dinners whenever possible, quiet time in the evening, and regular bedtimes set the stage for good study habits later on. And don't forget downtime — overscheduled kids burn out fast.
- Opportunities to be independent and responsible. Even a 5 year old can do some chores around the house, and at this age he'll probably jump at the chance to prove he can. Setting the table, sorting the clean silverware as you empty the dishwasher, and watering plants are small steps to building confidence.
- Practice being a friend. Most children experience a dramatic change in cognitive ability around the age of 5 and, for the first time, can actually put themselves in a pal's shoes — well, sometimes. A kindergartener is also emotionally fickle: sensitive one moment, outrageously self-centered the next. Work with your child on sharing, taking turns, and practicing tactful ways to say "No, I don't want to play at your house" without hurting a classmate's feelings.