Top Ten Tips for the Transition to Kindergarten
- Help yourself first. We can be more helpful to our children if we
acknowledge the ways in which this transition is a big life step for
us, as well. Think about what will help us through this developmental
event: information, support, networking, etc.
- Say goodbyes before concentrating on hellos. Whether your child
has been in preschool, child care, or at home with you, help
him/her say goodbye to that familiar situation. Review her recent
past experiences by looking at photos or helping her make memory
books. Talk about what he most enjoyed, what he will miss,
and how much he has grown. Point out ways you can help her stay
in touch with important people.
- Try to identify your child's big concerns about starting kindergarten.
Is he worrying about not making new friends? Is she wondering
about where the bathrooms will be? Investigate these
concerns through your special knowledge of your child. Pay attention
to what he/she is saying. Ask open-ended questions:
"Sometimes children wonder what the teacher will be like. What
do you wonder about?" Ease fears by talking about specifics such
as drop-off and pick-up routines.
- Think about how much advance preparation your child usually
needs for big life changes. Some children need a lot more preparation
than others. And children address big issues in little bits
and pieces spread out over time-a few sentences here, a few
questions there-and not in one big conversation.
- Concentrate on building "bridges" between the old, familiar experience
and the new, unfamiliar experience. For example, as
kindergarten gets closer, you may be able to get a class list. If so,
contact a few families about setting up one-on-one playdates
before school starts. Visit the school if you can; if not, walk
around the outside, peak inside the windows, and play on the
playground. Let your child take photos.
- Use your child's imagination. Play school. Read books about
kindergarten. Make up your own stories or create a puppet show
about going to school.
- Acknowledge and support feelings, especially mixed feelings. Tell
your own stories about your kindergarten and early school experiences.
Stay positive, but don't be afraid to share anecdotes about
minor missteps that ended well. You may also acknowledge your
own mixed feelings about the transition: "You've grown up so fast,
it's hard for me to believe that you're not a little baby anymore.
You're ready for big-kid school!"
- Encourage self-care skills. Being able to wash hands, use the bathroom
successfully, dress, zip up a jacket, and so on not only
increases your child's self-esteem; feeling secure about these skills
will give him/her one less thing to worry about in kindergarten.
- Expect stress. Limit other transitions when possible. Plan and put
into effect a kindergarten routine for your child: Select and lay out
school clothes each night, get the backpack ready for the morning,
choose a reasonable bedtime, and so on.
- Maintain a sympathetic yet positive attitude: "I know this life
change has some big challenges in it, and I also know that you can
learn to do it and have a great time. I have faith in you, and I'm
here to help you-and so is your teacher!"
Debbie Weinstock-Savoy, Ph.D., is a Freedman Center
Presenter, licensed psychologist, and the mother of three children.
She has over twenty years of experience consulting with parents and
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