Have Anxiety About Sending Your Child to Kindergarten? Here’s Where to Start
While children are brimming with excitement as they shop in the vibrant school supplies aisle for their first-ever Frozen backpack, plus-size packs of crayons, and superhero pencil cases, you may find yourself feeling far more overwhelmed than enthused. Preparing to send your child off to school– whether it be their first time away from home, or after years of daycare– can be a daunting and anxiety-ridden time for parents. If you find yourself feeling this way, don’t worry– you aren’t alone!
While you may feel uncertain about a lot of things in the weeks leading up to the first week of Kindergarten, one thing you can be certain of is that you’re not the first parent in history to feel anxious about sending your little one off to school. As the old adage goes– “It takes a village to raise a child.” We are all in this together, we care about your feelings as a parent as much as we care about your little one’s growth, and we are here to help!
Steps for Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten
In order for you to feel confident and at peace about sending your child off to Kindergarten, it is important that they, too, feel ready to tackle whatever long days in their future classroom might send their way. If you’re feeling that your child may already be “behind” in their classroom prep, have no fear– a little bit of undivided time and effort in working on skills with the help of one of their favorite role models (you!) can go a long way. After all, children learn like sponges, so make sure your absorbent little learner-in-progress is prepared by fine-tuning these skills:
1. Fine motor fundamentals.
Children nowadays are expected to enter the classroom with an array of knowledge and skills already under their belt. From being capable of identifying a few letters or numbers, to knowing how to hold a pencil, the following can be used as a checklist of skills you can work on with your child to ensure they will excel in the classroom. Just remember that practice makes perfect! Putting pressure on your child to learn these skills before they are ready and capable may discourage them to work on them. Instead, remember to be patient, encouraging, and allow them to learn these skills throughout their year in Kindergarten if need be.
- Be able to hold a pencil or other writing tools correctly ( pincer grasp-with the forefinger and thumb)
- Identify some or most letters of the alphabet
- Read common sight words, such as “Name” at the top of their papers or “Stop”
- Be able to write their first name (try with both uppercase and lowercase letters
- Count to ten and higher
- Sort items by color, size, quantity, shape, or material
- Be able to hold scissors and have experience with cutting
- Be able to color pictures relatively inside the lines with crayons, markers, paint, or other art supplies
- Be able to use an appropriate amount of glue (try both glue sticks and wet glue)
- Be able to speak using complete thoughts or sentences, as well as having the knowledge that they can ask questions and when to ask for help if they need it (often by raising their hand)
- Basic manners, such as “Please,” “Thank you,” and “May I…?”
- Be able to get dressed (or undressed in the winter months) independently (including zipping and unzipping coats or jackets, the order snow pants and other winter items are to be put on, and tying or velcroing shoes)
- How to use a tablet appropriately (if applicable to their schooling situation) and how to use authorized applications
2. Potty time protocol.
- Make sure to ask a teacher or classroom helper before going to the bathroom
- Do not run or dilly-dally through the halls or bathroom
- Make sure they are wearing clothes they can easily remove and put back on independently in order to use the toilet
- Always wash hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom
- Throw paper towels away in the garbage bin
- Be aware of what your child should do if they have an accident in their clothes. Let them know it is OK, and that they should tell an adult immediately
3. Cafeteria courtesies.
If your child is going to school full-time, it is likely that they will be eating in a cafeteria. The following are important things to remind your child about how they should behave in their new lunchtime setting:
- Remember their table manners
- Wash hands before and after eating
- Stay seated at the table while eating
- No throwing or playing with food
- Use their silverware whenever a food requires it
- Explain how their meal plan works, or how to use their money to get their hot lunch
- They can ask for help with opening something or other lunchtime tasks from a lunch monitor (and explain what monitors are there for)
- Always use a napkin to wipe their mouth and hands, not other people, or other objects
- Use an inside voice
- No playing games or being disrespectful to the students eating around them
- No running around the cafeteria at any time
- Always check the tables and floor for any garbage that needs to be thrown away when they are done
- Don’t forget to bring their lunchbox or water bottle back to the classroom to be put away in their cubby or backpack
- Walk in a single file line or in a respectful manner to and from the classroom
4. Classroom conduct.
- Their teacher (and teacher’s aide’s) name(s)
- Raising their hand, or other ways to respectfully get their teacher’s attention
- Where to hang up their backpack, lunchbox, and coat
- How to ask to go to the bathroom (and whether they need some sort of “pass” to bring with them)
- Their class time schedule (including pick-up and drop-off times, and time of the day designated for lunch and recess)
- To actively listen and not speak while the teacher is addressing the class and giving directions, or while another student is speaking
- Follow directions the teacher has given, and don’t be afraid to ask if they don’t know what they should be doing
- Understand that they are responsible for their own messes, and know how to clean up
- Use classroom property properly and with respect (no leaning back in chairs, destroying school supplies, writing in books, throwing toys, etc.)
- Be able to leave your side easily in the mornings to begin their school day
- Go to a teacher or classroom helper immediately if they are experiencing a conflict with a peer that neither know how to resolve
- Go to a teacher or classroom helper immediately if they are feeling especially angry, sad, confused, or another emotion they need help working through
5. Pick-up procedure.
Make sure your child understands very clearly who will be picking them up, and where. Make sure your child and their teacher are well aware of who is authorized to pick your child up, and who is not. Also, be sure to remind your child that they are not allowed to run out of their classroom or out of line when they see that whomever is picking them up has arrived– they must inform their teacher first!
Steps for Preparing Yourself for Kindergarten
1. Find a classroom comrade.
It’s no secret that life is easier with the help of someone you trust, and this is especially true when it comes to caring for your child. This is why it could be a great idea to find a fellow parent in your child’s class (be it a fellow neighborhood mom or dad, parent on the same soccer team, or your child’s best friend’s mom or dad) to establish a close, mutually beneficial relationship with. This could mean exchanging phone numbers and agreeing to a routine carpool schedule. Or, maybe you already have a classroom comrade and you notice a particularly anxious first-time kindergarten parent who could benefit from being included in getting together with your pre-existing comrade and your children. And maybe, you are that first-time parent who could benefit from reaching out to a parent who has been a kindergarten mom one, or two, or even three times before. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other parents, as well as your child’s teacher, especially if you are feeling anxious about sending your child to school all day. There is strength in numbers, and when one fellow parent runs into a kink in their schedule in which you need to bring their child home with you for a playdate and snacks, they will be likely to return the favor.
2. Strategize safety.
If you haven’t already said it in one way or another a million times before, it is important to remind your child that “safety is the number one most important rule.”
What door will your child and their class be exiting from at the end of the day, and what is the exact spot that you or another verified adult will be expected to pick them up? Who is your child’s backup emergency contact, and is your child aware who is authorized to pick them up from school in the case that you won’t be there? What protocols and systems does your child’s school have in place in the case of a fire, tornado, or other potentially threatening situations? Help them to understand that there will be emergency drills, and what they may be instructed to do during them, so that they won’t be scared when one does occur.
Does your child have a serious allergy or health condition that the school nurse, other parents, teachers, or classroom helpers need to be aware of? Make sure to deliver this information to them, by discussing this with them in person or sending out emails. If precautions are not taken seriously at first, don’t be afraid to reinforce that your child may have serious health consequences if these precautions are not put in place. Although it is likely your child is already aware, it could be a good idea to remind your child what they can or cannot have, and communicate with them about who you have informed about their specific health condition and needs.
3. Scout out the school.
While it’s highly likely that you have already done your research about the school you are sending your child to, it could make you feel more comfortable becoming familiar with the layout and offerings of your child’s school. Where is the bathroom relative to your child’s classroom? Where are the entrances and exits throughout the building? It could give you some additional piece of mind knowing the in’s and out’s of where your child will be spending so much of their time.
4. Energize. Exhaust. Emote. Repeat.
Take a moment to think about what reenergizes you. When do you find yourself smiling or feeling reconnected with yourself as an individual woman or man again? Is it going for a walk by yourself? Fitting in a 30 minute yoga video? Maybe it’s just lying back and watching a single episode of a TV show in the middle of a hectic day. Whatever it is, prioritize doing this one thing whenever you’re feeling worn out. Seriously. Mental health and self-love are the most important things you can practice daily that have a massive impact on your world around you, especially the way you interact with your children.
It’s also important to remember that it’s inevitable that being a Kindergarten parent is exhausting; from the dropping off to the picking up, packing lunches, working with them on their reading at home, scheduling playdates and parent-teacher conferences… it can all be a bit much at times. When you consciously remind yourself that you are allowed to have bad moments or bad days, you will be able to handle them more mindfully and without fear of judgment from yourself. No parent is perfect, everyone has off days, and you will be OK! If (or when) you become exhausted, don’t forget to pour that glass of wine late at night and call a close friend to voice your concerns to. Or, you could vent to anyone, really: your partner, your neighbor, your hair stylist, or the crossing guard you see everyday outside your child’s school. Do whatever you need to do to get those negative emotions out into the world, and let them float away. You have every right to get overwhelmed and frustrated during this time, just don’t be afraid to voice your fears out loud in order to let them go. You might even consider scheduling an appointment with a therapist. It’s not selfish, and bottling up negative emotions certainly won’t help anyone. Whatever you do, just know, your child is only in Kindergarten once, so you should do whatever it takes to allow for heaviness to be lifted off your shoulders in order to make more room for moments of joy. Your child loves you very much and you are doing amazing things for them every single day! This is a reminder that you are an exceptional parent, you are doing your best, and your best is good enough.
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