Some young children jump right in to starting kindergarten, acting as if they've been there all of their lives. But those easy adjusters tend to be the exception. So expect some tentativeness and ambivalence, along with genuine excitement about starting “real school.” It is a little easier, perhaps, if some of the songs, activities, and scheduled parts of the day (such as circle- or group time, snack, rest, free play, etc.) are familiar. But it still takes time for a somewhat shy or wary child—or one who is deeply attached to home and family—to feel safe in a new program. Try these steps to ease the strain of this big moment:
- Choose your child’s kindergarten program carefully if you are fortunate enough to have options. A good program should adapt to each child’s needs and provide a range of learning opportunities for your child.
- Work closely with the teacher before the first school day. Help her understand your child’s interests and strengths, as well as areas in which he may need extra help. Find out what the kindergarten day is usually like. The spring before entry, you and your child should be invited to visit and see for yourselves. Then you can point out to your 5 year old where the bathroom is, where the cubbies are, what toys are there, and where the door to the playground is. You can also show your child the door through which parents may enter at the end of the day. You may be invited to join the group for snack or another welcoming activity.
- Be casually optimistic about what lies ahead. Don’t overstate the weightiness of this happening. Occasionally, in passing, talk (positively) about some fun activities your child can expect to do in kindergarten. Sing songs or play games she might encounter there. Some of these may be new, others comfortably familiar. But don’t focus a large part of your time together talking about kindergarten.