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Is Your Child Starting Kindergarten? Here is how you can help.

When I was a Kindergarten teacher and then administrator/supervisor of early childhood programs, I found that children and families who are beginning Kindergarten need some support as the transition to school begins. Perhaps your child or you participated in an orientation during in the spring, to your child that was too long ago to remember and to lessen fears. Here are some ‘Tips’ that you may find helpful.
1.Tour the school with your child prior to the school year beginning. Try to learn the name of your child’s teacher and write an introductory letter from both you and your child. Ask the principal or secretary to mail it to her; the school probably has a policy of not releasing her address.
2.Go to the school and ask the principal or secretary for a quick tour. Learn as much as you can about the routines such as where the restrooms are (often a child’s concern), where and how lunch is handled, where the buses arrive and pick up at the school, etc…
3.Have a couple of fun hours for you and your child shopping for school supplies
4.Lay out clothes the night before school starts, have extra time on the morning school starts—do not be rushed. Know that your child may not sleep well or want to eat that morning.
5.If your child cannot express herself in English, recognize that a parent should stay with the child the first one or two days. The parent who stays does not have to understand or speak English. The parent’s presence is a reassurance that everything is okay and the parent can help the child understand transitions and routines.
6. Give your child a personal item of yours, such things as a bracelet, purse, key chain serve as a concrete reminder that you will see her at the end of the day. Let the teacher know that you have given your child this item and it is okay for her to have it.
7.Always, always say “Goodbye” to your child. Remember, your child is sensitive to your feelings. If you are stressed, or emotional, ‘put on a reassuring face’.
8.If your child is crying while getting on the bus, or when you take her into the classroom, chances are that she is playing in the next five minutes. Rather than you being upset and feeling guilty all day, call the school and ask the secretary to check on how and what your child is doing.
9. Know that when go to pick her up or see her at the end of the day, she may begin crying when she sees you. I think this behavior is an emotional release from the day, even though she has had a lot of fun.
10.You may reach a point where talking about the next day, just does not seem to do much good. I believe you simply state, “You have a job and that is to go to Kindergarten. I have a job and that is to go to work (or whatever you have to do during the day). I am sure you will have a fun day.” Talking over and over about it is fairly useless—it is difficult to convince a child going through a transition of separation that everything is going to be okay.
11.After a full week, expect the next Monday will be a more stressful start. You will see this lessen on Mondays after a few weeks.
12.When your child is not present, contact the Kindergarten teacher and ask how she is doing. Keep the communication lines open between you and the teacher.
13.This last tip is for you. Try not to feel guilty. A good school experience leads to a child’s optimal development and offers positive activities and relationships.

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