One of the most difficult days that a parent experiences is the first day of kindergarten. Letting your little one go to school on their own is not easy. Even if you have been stuck at home in the pandemic trying to do remote preschool, you worry about your child becoming independent and going to kindergarten. Each grade gets a little easier, but transition years can be challenging too.
You can better prepare children for their first day of kindergarten by informing them of what is going to happen, practicing routines, organizing play dates, be relaxed and on time, keep the journey light and visit the school and class before so it’s not a shock or a surprise to your child on their first day.
1) Know Your Child
Some children will need an extended goodbye, and others will walk off like we aren’t important at all on the first day of kindergarten. If your child is the independent sort who will walk away, you can just pull through the line and drive off in your own tears. It isn’t that simple, but you will not usually need to spend as much time with them.
However, those kids who need extra time with you will need to be considered as well. You will want to allow extra time to get to school and get them on their way. However don’t prolong goodbyes too much as it will become a regular drama each day
2) Prepare Your Child For Their First Day of Kindergarten Early.
A little time before the first day of kindergarten try getting your child ready for this change. Kids become less anxious when they feel prepared. Make sure to have some activities planned for the first week, things they know are coming after school.
This can be as simple as trips to see grandparents so they can tell them about their day to a nice lunch together with just parent and child time. Aside from having fun, you will also want to set a good example for your child and to raise their expectations of school. To help them look forward to it. How about a display area in the home for them to put their school work on each week.
Talk to your children about the routine expected at school. Some children get nervous when they don’t know what they are supposed to do, so a talk preparing them for the next steps can be helpful. Some schools allow parents to walk their children to class no matter what grade throughout the school year. If you feel this is suitable then you can consider it, however don’t stay to long!
Other schools limit this to the first few days of school or depending on the age (sometimes both). You cannot hold your child’s hand for their entire lives, no matter how much you want to do that. Tell them what will happen each day until the routine has changed. If you are changing the routine (you’re only going to walk them in for a week even though the school allows more), let them know what you expect as well.
3) Be Positive
Be a problem solver by having fun and enjoying each part of this big transition from home life to going to school. For a few weeks before the big day make sure you talk about all the fun things that they will be doing in school.
This will help your child understand that school is a positive place. Show some examples of your own school work ( if you still have it!) and then ask them to compare when they come home. This will make the first day of kindergarten and easier transition.
4) Talk With Them As Much As Possible
If you have a shy child, try to start this habit in preschool. In the days before the first day, talk to your child about each subject that they might be learning or what they will be doing in school. Maybe even ask them questions about a new book you read just for fun or ask them about their favorite books in the library.
Get them use to talking and expressing themselves on their own or with you, so they can get ready to talk in a group setting. It will allow them to get used to interactions. If you know other parents you can schedule play dates as well to help both children learn how to relate to others and to develop friendships before they go to school.
5) What To Pack For Each Day
With the first day of kindergarten fast approaching, a lot of parents are wondering what to pack for each day. This checklist of what to pack for each day is great! Your kids will feel happy and you’ll feel at ease knowing they have everything they’ll need. Let them take something to feel comfortable as well like a favorite teddy bear or blanket. Your can ask your children if they need something else.
If there is a new teacher, make sure to send your child with a nice letter introducing yourself and the child (and if it’s their first day of school). Keep in mind that there might be requirements for what to bring during a specific season or time of year, so make sure to check with the school.
6) Explain Your Feelings If You Are Nervous As Well
As the first day of kindergarten approaches. Your child is likely going to notice your anxiety, and this will make them feel anxious as well. It’s okay to feel this, but you will want to explain to them what the problem is. You are likely anxious because it is a significant change, and you want them to feel comfortable.
You are worried about their happiness. Children often mistake it as not having confidence in them. You need to be honest with them about this being your worry that everything will be excellent for them. Do not burden them with your concerns, though. You do not want to make them feel bad or worry about you. Only explain your feelings if it will alleviate their worry too.
It’s never easy saying good bye to someone we love. But you need to remember that you are going to be alright. The most important thing is that your child feels loved, cared for and secure. Try writing down some things that are special to talk about with them.
You can even play a game with them (such as choosing a favorite family member or pet). The more they know about family members, friends and what school will be like, the easier it will be for them to adjust on their first day of kindergarten.
7) Practice Some Kindergarten Routines Everyday
Try to go through everyday routines in the days before the first day of kindergarten, such as getting dressed and going to the toilet at home. This will help them get used to new routines even if they aren’t in school yet. You can even do some practice lessons with them to get them used to how classrooms work.
Practicing is also a great way for your child to ask questions and prepare for their new school life. You can even practice writing and spelling and numbers on a chalkboard if they have one at home. If you don’t have a chalkboard, you could also make one with some brown paper or contact paper. We have some great resources on this site to help you with this. You can try them below.
If possible, get a copy of your child’s daily schedule and route to the classroom. Set up a pretend classroom for practicing walking the halls, entering the classroom, and following the daily schedule. The daily schedule can often be followed reasonably well at home.
Help your child get used to the planned eating times and how to open foods on their own. If your child will be taking their lunch to school, make sure that they can open all of their containers. If they will not be taking their lunch to school, you can still make sure that they know how to open the foods that may be provided.
Talk to your child’s school about fruit cups, juice cartons, milk cartons, and water bottles that may be challenging for their little hands.
8) Get To Know The School
The best thing to do to help your child feel more comfortable at school is to get them better acquainted with the environment. If possible, visit the school and explore it. When you see the furniture, or meet the teacher let your child see how they react and interact with others.
That way they will feel more comfortable around those in charge of their education. A lot of kindergartens will have orientation days. ( it may be you are your childs first time but it certainly isn’t the school or the teachers! )
Contact the school to see if you can join the orientation day and see what they have planned. If they don’t do orientation days maybe you could go for a visit to see the classroom and the school. This means it wont be all scary and new on the first day of kindergarten.
9) Try To Find A Friend For Them To Go To School With.
If they are going to school on their first day, it will be easier with a friend, it will distract them from the realities of being away from you and make the journey less stressful. It also means they already know someone in the class which will take some of the worry out of the situation.
If you can’t find a friend, ask the teacher to pair them up with the friendliest child in the class. It will help them make friends quicker and make it easier for them to adjust to school.
How To Leave Your Child At School On The First Day
- Remember that YOU are the most important person in their life! Although they will be having lots of fun be aware it may get tearful when they have to say good bye to you. This will get easier!
- Wake up early so you can prepare everything before your child wakes up.
- Have everything prepared, it is a stressful day and you don’t need the added stress of running late!
- Have something to give your child on their first day of school. Maybe a little certificate or a nice lunch date with you after they return.
- Take a few pictures with them and print them out so they can put it on the fridge so they feel great about going to school every day. Let them know they are growing up!
- Give your child a little list for them to draw or fill out so they can tell you what happened during the day. Show them you deeply care about what they will be doing, and want to know what they did on their first day of school.
- Keep the journey to school light hearted, sing a song in the car or play a game of eye spy or similar. Make sure they know what is happening at all stages.
- Be prepared that it might all come to a head at the school gates. If you know you have an emotional child you can ask advice from the kindergarten ( they will have seen this so many times) but it is better to explain quickly you will see them in a few hours and they are going to play with some new friends. ( it is hard to walk away when you heard your child crying but drawing it out wont help.)
- When you pick up your child at the end of the day, tell them you came back, and you will always come back. Let them understand that it is ok to go to school on their own as they will always see you when they have finished.
- Don’t forget this will be difficult on you as well. Use the time they are at school to treat yourself to something you haven’t done for a while. Resist the temptation to go back early, or to call up and check. You want your children to start developing some independence.
What About Older Children?
Most of the time, parents and older children do okay until it is time to transition from primary or elementary to junior high or high school. These transitions come at times where children are ready not to feel so much like little kids, but the prospect of being more mature is scary too.
Help your child see that you will always be there for them and that you will love them no matter what. Children need to know that no matter how much they grow, they will always be the most important people in your lives.
Spend some one-on-one time with them and help them plan for times they miss you. If your child’s school allows mobile devices, have them take your picture and bring it up when they need a mom or dad smile.
They often already have the words for anxiety and fear. If they seem incredibly anxious, consider taking a trip to a mental health professional. You can show them that you love them and that their health is important all at once. Some anxiety is expected, however. Don’t be afraid to let them experience their emotions.
The final school transition for parents is the college transition. Teach your children the social and self-care tips they need before leaving home. Teach them cooking and cleaning skills and offer them a hotline to you whenever they feel scared, frustrated, or sad.
No matter how old we get, our parents are our biggest influences. Even married children often want their moms during an illness. As a parent, it is understandable to feel scared or worried when your child transitions to this adult life stage.
Your relationship will change, but that doesn’t mean that it will not be fulfilling. Some parents find the best connection with their kids later in life.
School transitions are hard whether your child is five or twenty five. You want what is best for them, but you don’t know if you are making the right choices. You will all do fine with a little preparation and honesty. Whether it is the first day of kindergarten or moving to their own place, as long as you have taken the time to prepare them you can be confident they will totally fine.
Let them feel the feelings and be honest about your own. You will both be better off understanding each other. These transitions are tough, but you can do it. I wish we could say they get easier, but you can take comfort in the fact that you have prepared your children as well as you can for each stage.