As your child’s first day of school approaches, you and your child will have different feelings. You’ll be happy to know he’s school age, but you’ll also wonder if he’ll adjust to the change in routine.
Adapting to many changes
Name your child’s emotions, especially if they are positive. This will help him see that starting kindergarten is a happy time. However, if he or she has always stayed with you, your child may feel a little anxious about going to school.
Whether or not your child has been in daycare, there are many changes that he or she will have to adjust to when starting kindergarten:
a new environment;
a new group of children, often larger than the one in daycare
new rules for living and learning
a teaching staff with whom he must create bonds.
All of these changes, experienced at the same time, can be difficult and stressful for your child. Getting used to this new environment will probably not happen on its own.
Research has shown that the transition to school has an influence on future levels of motivation and perseverance in school.
Transition to Kindergarten Activities
For the transition from daycare or home to school to go smoothly, it needs to be prepared and gradual.
For this reason, the school your child will be attending probably offers activities to help him or her make the transition to kindergarten: classroom visits, activities at the school organized for future kindergarten students, meetings with the teacher, presentations about the daycare service, etc.
These activities are important. They allow your child to become familiar with the new environment and to imagine the start of school more realistically.
If the school has a playground, you may even decide to spend some time there with your child and let him play to get used to the place.
Before school starts: what you can do to help your child
Here’s what you can do to help your child adjust:
Start talking with your child about the school year as soon as he or she is enrolled in school. To help explain kindergarten activities and how the school works, attend parent meetings organized by the school.
Explain the new routine to your child so that he or she is ready for this step. For example, you can tell your child that there will no longer be a nap time at school and that he or she will go to daycare before and after school.
However, tell your child that there will still be time to play, since kindergarten is all about learning through play. If your child is being cared for by someone other than you (e.g. babysitter, caregiver), it’s a good idea to also explain the new routine that will begin when school starts.
Reassure your child that some things will stay the same. Not everything will change after school starts. Give them examples: it will still be Daddy picking you up at the end of the day.
Share his excitement about being a “big kid. The first day of school is often seen as a sign of “growing up. Talk to your child about how school feels. He may feel comfortable being a “big kid” or he may feel a little overwhelmed. Listen to his feelings and continue to tell him about all the wonderful things that are happening at school.
Involve them in buying school supplies. For example, he might come with you to buy his school bag or pencils. This is a good time to talk about his feelings about going back to school.
Show your enthusiasm for school. Talk about all the things he’ll be doing there: meeting new friends, doing a variety of fun and artistic activities and, of course, learning new things.
Talk about your own memories of school, how it felt to go there for the first time. If your child has older siblings, ask them to share their memories as well.
Help your child meet school friends. Find other kids in the neighborhood who go to the same school as your child. School functions are a good place to find parents from your child’s daycare or those who live nearby. Don’t be afraid to invite children from the neighborhood to play, so you can start to build relationships.
For the first day
Remind your child that you will be back. Tell them who will be picking them up at the end of school. An anxious child may want to know exactly when this will happen. Find something in the routine to clue them in. For example, say, “When you’ve cleaned up the classroom and hear the bell, then you’ll know it’s time to go home. We’ll come get you.”
Get ready together. Involve your child in back-to-school preparations, such as choosing clothes and snacks for the day together and packing a school bag. By doing this, you’re letting your child know that this is a special day and that it’s all about him or her.
Set aside a place for your child to display their school work. You can decorate this place together, even before school starts (bulletin board, bedroom door).
A gradual start to school
To make the transition to kindergarten as smooth as possible, many schools choose to have a gradual start. Progressive start models vary from school to school.
On the first day of school, the child may spend an hour or two in the classroom. In some schools, the group of students is divided into two or even four groups. Each group then comes to school at different times. This means that your child may attend school every other day or only for half days.
In some schools, the phased-in start lasts several days, while in others it lasts only one day. Either way, it gives the teacher and students a chance to get used to each other.
This may complicate your schedule, as you will have to manage a specific schedule during this time. Some schools no longer offer a phased-in start for this reason, but many still find it necessary.
Some schools offer daycare for kindergarteners during the phased-in period, but this is not always the case. You may need to take time off work, ask for help from family and friends, or find a babysitter for a few days.
It is therefore important to find out the schedule for your child’s first two weeks of school. This will help you get organized.
Starting kindergarten is a big change in your child’s life.
Some children may be a little anxious or stressed, which is normal.
Help your child be ready by visiting the school and talking often about starting kindergarten.
Tell your child what the new day will be like, but also reassure him or her of what won’t change