Dear Dr. Shore,
Im the parent of a five-year-old girl who is starting kindergarten this year. She tends to be a clingy child and I'm a bit nervous about her adjustment to school. What can I do to make the transition as easy as possible for Katie (and for me)?
There may well be some rocky moments during Katie's first days as she adjusts to a new setting, a new authority figure, and new rules and routines. Thats not unusual for kindergarten students, and it typically doesnt last very long as they gradually make friends, understand school routines, and learn to trust the teacher. You may find some of the following suggestions useful in making Katie's first days in kindergarten as anxiety-free as possible.
Review the first-day procedure with her. Make sure Katie is clear about how shell get to and from school, what will happen when she arrives, and how long school lasts. Reassure her that her teacher will let her know where to go at the end of the day.
Give your child a security item. Consider placing a favorite toy, book, or doll in her knapsack. You also might include a picture of the family.
Restrain your emotions when your child leaves. Avoid overreacting as she steps onto the bus. Expressions of emotion may trigger distress or sadness in your child and make leaving more difficult. If youre walking her to school, do not linger outside class. Give her a hug, say goodbye, and leave! If she begins to cry, remember that kindergarten teachers are very experienced with first-day jitters.
Be available the first few days. If youre working, see if you can arrange some time off for the first day or two to see your child off or welcome her home from school. If thats not feasible, be available by phone after school.
Avoid grilling your child about what happened in school. Your child may not wish to elaborate on the school day and is unlikely to give kindergarten rave reviews. After all, its not easy to give up the familiarity, coziness, and security of home. Be prepared for such responses as "okay." Such questions as "What was the best part of the day?" may trigger conversation more successfully than yes or no questions.
If your child balks at going to school, stay the course. Its not unusual for kindergartners to resist going to school during the first few days. Don't argue with your child or yell at her. State in a calm, matter-of-fact manner that all children must go to school and she has no choice but to attend. If your child is crying as she gets on the bus or enters the class, rest assured that the tears are likely to cease almost as soon as you leave. Each day should get a little easier as she begins to settle in to the school routine.