The new world of school brings many changes. Even for children who have been in child care or preschool, starting kindergarten will be a new world that is quite different from what they’ve experienced. The school’s rules might be different from your rules, so children must learn flexibility. Children need to sit still for longer periods of time than they are used to, so they must have self-control and self-discipline. Teachers might have a different teaching and communication style than their parents, so children must learn effective listening and communication skills.
Since children this age don’t understand time well, a month can seem like a lifetime to a child this age. So spend the last few weeks of summer easing your child into this new transition by following these ten simple tips:
- Attend the kindergarten orientation — even if this is your sixth child — and take notes. Follow any recommendations the school offers.
- Visit the school. Let the child see the inside of the classroom and feel comfortable being there. Talk to the teacher and have her explain what the child’s day will be like.
- If separation is an issue, talk to the teacher about your concerns. Practice by leaving your child with a trusted friend/relative for increasing time periods.
- Arrange a tour of the school bus. Walk through the process of getting on the bus. Bus drivers can help explain this and offer safety tips.
- Find out where the buses park (or where you will park if you’re driving) and walk the child from the entry door to their classroom, so they can confidently find their way the first day.
- Involve your child in shopping for supplies and let him organize his backpack.
- Practice self-help skills. Teachers don’t have much time to help each individual child, so make sure your child can zip, button, tie shoes, and tell which shoe goes on which foot. Give her opportunities at home to organize and care for her own toys and clothes. And make sure she’s independent in using the toilet and washing her hands.
- Develop and refine your child’s social skills, including: listening when others talk, sharing, taking turns; staying in one’s own space, and telling an adult when he needs help.
- Find out what skills the teacher expects your child to know and weave these skills into everyday activities. For example, play games that involve counting. Engage your child in measuring and counting while you cook, garden or shop. Choose a “letter of the day” and see how many things you can find that begin with that letter. Make up silly rhymes or create a story by taking turns adding a sentence. Keep it light and fun, without pressure.
- Openly discuss any fears or questions your child has. Don’t downplay or minimize these feelings. Children need to be able to release tears and express negative feelings, too, as they are all a natural part of change, transition and growth. Prepare a plan for how your child can independently handle problems that may arise.
Know that you have been preparing your child for kindergarten since the first day of his life — and know you are not alone in your attempts to make the transition go smoothly. By working with your child and the teachers as a team, the new world of school can be an exciting adventure and positive experience.
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Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop and president of Parent’s Toolshop Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30 years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She has interviewed many parenting experts on her Parents Tool Talk radio show and is a parenting expert columnist. She has produced almost 100 multimedia resources, which are available at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.
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