Since my oldest daughter has been in daycare, we’ve been dreaming of that day when she entered kindergarten and we escaped the death clutch daycare has had on our bank account. Oh, the things my husband and I could do with those funds – the Time Life Best of Soul Train DVD collection, zombie lawn ornaments, PajamaJeans for every day of the week. Or we could do something really crazy – like stop paying for gas with spare change.
But as that day creeps closer and closer, we realize that we’ve been so fixated on our financial windfall that we failed to understand we’re pulling our child from the safety of her preschool onto the road of debauchery that begins in elementary school.
It’s only a matter of time before my innocent little baby is in high school, listening to gangster rap and catching mono from the football team.
MJ was all excited to begin kindergarten as well until she grasped that getting goldfish crackers on the hour and having clowns visit her class every other day stops the moment she walks through her elementary school doors.
To make the transition easier on MJ – and us – I asked two kindergarten authorities – Jennifer Franklin, kindergarten teacher with the Fox C-6 School District and Pam Dyson, child development expert, parenting coach and licensed professional counselor – for tips to ease the big day meltdowns. Especially for Mr. P – lord, that boy’s a crier.
Start putting the kibosh on those lazy summer days. During the summer, your child might be used to late nights and later mornings. Keep that schedule on track through the first day of school, and your little one is in for a shock to her system. Dyson recommended establishing a schooltime bed and morning routine now to ease your child into the school year. “Consistency and predictability help a child feel less anxious about a new situation,” she explained.
Another preparation technique? Read books about kindergarten. Not only does it ease fears, “It also gives you an opportunity to initiate conversations with them about questions they have.”
Don’t miss your school’s open house. Franklin and Dyson agreed giving kids a sneak preview is essential in helping them learn what to expect, and both encourage parents not to miss an open house opportunity. Children get to meet their teacher ahead of time as well as navigate their classroom, learn the layout of the school and find the bathrooms. One of the great things our principal suggested was to bring MJ to the kindergarten playground throughout the summer, which has definitely piqued her interest in her new school.
Be involved with school from day one – or beforehand if you’re an overachiever. “If you have questions, ask!” remarked Franklin. “Teachers are partners in your child’s education. They want your child to succeed as much as you do. Just remember that it can take up to a month or more for everyone to ‘get in the groove’ of school. So don’t panic about anything until the newness wears off.”
In addition, schools offer numerous opportunities for parents to play a role in your school’s activites, even if you’re tight on time. Dyson suggested volunteering with the PTO or directly in your child’s classroom. “Both you and your child will benefit from feeling a connection with the school.”
Think of a first day plan that works for the both of you. After 13 years as a kindergarten teacher, Franklin has seen it all and offered a few suggestions she shares with all of her parents each year. “Talk to your child about what things will happen at school. Reassure them that the teacher is there to help them in any way they can.”
“If they are going to ride the bus, let them ride it the first morning, that way they know the bus driver. If you have to, follow the bus to school, but don’t linger too long. That will only make the separation harder. If your child does cry when you leave, give them one last hug and walk away. Most children will quit crying within a few minutes.”
Embrace the fact you want to bury your sorrows in a box of wine. Having your first child – or your last child – make the move to kindergarten is just one more sign that your child is getting older. And worse, that you’re getting older right alongside her. It’s no wonder kindergarten is just as hard on mommy as it is on your little one.
Said Dyson, “Entering kindergarten is a reminder that your child is growing up and becoming more independent. You may feel both excited and sad. It might also bring memories to the surface of your own kindergarten experiences both positive and negative. Recognize that having those feelings is a normal reaction.”
If the feelings are overwhelming, don’t hesitate to talk with a licensed professional counselor. Dyson, for instance, can be contacted through her website at www.pamdyson.com.
As much as I’ve begged, threatened and bribed, my stubborn five-year-old just flat-out refuses to stop growing. So now I guess I’m forced to accept this change. And by accept, I mean crawling inside her Hello Kitty backpack and hiding among her glue sticks and washable markers so I can keep an eye on her during her first day and maybe try to hold on to this special time just a little bit longer.
By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting