Your baby is starting school. You’ve bought all the clothes, all the supplies, but what else can you do to make that transition into kindergarten a happy one for you and your child?
1. Visit the school before that first day of kindergarten and walk around the building with your child. Visit the cafeteria, the library, the gym, the office, and the playground. Come to the playground several times just for fun before that first day.
2. Read books aloud to your child and show them how to sit on the floor with their feet and hands to themselves while listening like kids do in kindergarten.
3. Write your child’s name inside their lunch box, backpack, and when it gets cold, their coats. At the end of the school year, the school will have about one hundred coats with no name and usually give them to the Salvation Army because the kids don’t remember they have lost them. Kindergarten kids need help keeping up with their coats.
4. Talk about how to eat breakfast and lunch, and how they will feel if they don’t eat it. It’s a long afternoon in kindergarten till 3:00 when you haven’t eaten. Get a school menu and talk about what food they will be serving each day so your baby will be ready to make those choices. When you visit the cafeteria tell them their class will all sit at one of the long tables by whoever they were behind in the line. The teacher will not stay with them during lunch, but will drop them off in the line, and then, after lunch, will be back to line them up. Make sure they know that they don’t need money to eat at school because you will have already paid for it or make arrangements. Some kindergarten students may worry about eating if they don’t know their food has been prepaid.
5. Talk about how to walk in a line, keep their hands to themselves, and to wait to talk until they get back in the room. Tell you child that kindergarten kids have to listen in the hall so that they know where to go.
6. Talk about how your kindergarten child will feel if one of the other kids is crying for their momma. Some kids really lose it and scream at the top of their lungs. It is an incredibly stressful thing to see. I feel so sorry for them. If you think this might be your child, try to comfort them ahead of time about how at the end of the day you or someone they know will be there to take them home.
7. Above all, do not cry in front of your kindergartener. They will sense fear and uncertainty that will make it very hard for them to cope without you, and it will set a pattern that may take weeks to overcome. During the week before school, teachers will be about decorating their rooms. If you feel your child may have a hard time being left, try to meet with your teacher before school starts. Many schools have a night to meet the teacher and see the room before school starts. Look on your school’s website to see when this is and don’t miss it. If you can go to the room, practice having your child stay in the room and wave bye to you as you leave. Then pop right back in and tell them that’s what the first day will be like.
8. Update your child’s contacts so that someone can be reached if your child needs you. Remember to do this when anything changes during the year.
9. Fill out the paperwork to be a school volunteer. During the year there will be times when kindergarten parents are needed for field trips and book fairs. Plan to volunteer a few times to help your child’s teacher or to help the librarian. Your child will love seeing you at school and you will feel much more at ease by seeing how the school teachers and principal interact with children. The school workers will all know you and will remember your child’s name and speak to them more often in passing.
10. Make it a best practice to never say anything negative about the school, other students, the teacher, or principal in hearing range of your child. This practice will help your child to see school as a safe and happy place. Make appointments to visit with your child’s teacher to make sure any misunderstandings can be corrected as soon as possible.
Keep your phone nearby, and get ready for tomorrow! Make a routine each night to be ready for school the next morning.
When you see your child after school or daycare take time to talk with them about their day. Ask them to show you their take home folders and look for notes or papers that have been sent home. Your kindergartener will be excited to tell you about their day. Be excited for their accomplishments!
For the second day of school, urge your kindergarten child to go in without you. Principals will be at the door directing the children to where they need to go.
It’s hard to let them go, but you can’t hold them back. You have to run into the future with your child, taking each step with them, then letting go and watching them run ahead into their future until the next new thing, when you will hold their hands again.