Starting elementary school is a big step for children: now they are in "big kids' school." And while the majority have little trouble adjusting, kindergarten can be disorienting at first. Even children who have been in day care or preschool, or who have older siblings at the school, may feel a bit apprehensive. It's a new building, a new teacher, and a new set of classmates, after all, so it does take time for kids to get comfortable in the unfamiliar surroundings.
Here is what you can expect in terms of your child's social development:
- She feels more secure. Separation anxiety — crying and clinging to parents at drop off time — isn't usually an issue. (Children with a history of transition problems can be an exception, however.) Generally, it's the parents who have trouble at the door! Educators and others advise mom and dad not to linger.
- New friendships develop slowly. Even though kindergarteners love to play, they take their time letting new kids in. Kindergarten teachers look for opportunities for students to get to know each other better. Seating at tables is by design, as it forces children to interact and share more. Teachers periodically change the seating arrangement too.
- Playing with more than one child at a time is still tricky at this age. Playing in pairs tends to be less complicated: when two play house, for example, the decision-making is easy — one child pretends to be the parent and the other is the baby.
- Social skills are tested. Whether your child is a social butterfly or more reserved, bear in mind that kindergarteners are rookies at navigating the social terrain. Remember too that boys and girls don't develop socially in the same way or at the same speed. Girls mature faster and respond better to reason than 5-year-old boys do. In addition, boys learn in a more physical way.
- Self-control is a challenge. There are lots of new rules and routines for kindergarteners to manage, and teachers spend a lot of time going over appropriate behavior.
- Maturity wins out. The second half of kindergarten is vastly different from the first. By January, students have learned what is expected and are comfortable with the routine. Academically, they start putting it together too. Many teachers say that when children come back after December break, it's like having a whole new class.