The fall brings many exciting changes as the days get shorter, the leaves begin to change, and a new school year begins.
The fall is also the opening of a brand new chapter for many families – the start of kindergarten. This transition to school can unravel many new emotions for parents and children, from feeling excitement for what’s to come, grief as you watch your child head off to school, and uneasiness as new challenges and adventures are about to unfold.
Even though kindergarten is an incredible time of positive changes (learning new things, making new friends, and exploring new interests), the new behaviors and emotions it can bring might be difficult to navigate.
Here are some ways to make a smoother transition into kindergarten for both parents and children.
- Validate Feelings: Change is hard for everyone. Acknowledge and validate feelings for both yourself and your child. Stay positive and share your own personal experiences of starting kindergarten or other early school experiences.
- Practice Routines: Describe and practice what new routines may look like, such as arrival to school, lunchtime, and bathroom time. Practice opening up snacks and lunch items, zipping up coats and backpack zippers. If possible, begin waking up earlier and going to bed earlier. And if your child is still taking naps, shorten nap times as most kindergarten classrooms do not have a formal nap time.
- Read and Play: Use your child’s imagination to play school, make up stories, color and draw, and read books about kindergarten. Books like The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, The Colour Monster Goes to School by Anna Llenas, and Butterflies on the First Day Of School by Annie Silvestro can all be used to help kids express their emotions surrounding school.
- Expect Stress: With a new routine, school, peers and grown ups, expect for things to get stressful. Limit other transitions when possible. Plan and be consistent with morning, evening and bedtime routines. Parents should try to lay out clothes and pack lunches the night before in order to leave plenty of time in the morning to get out the door.
In the end, no matter how much preparation happens, the transition to kindergarten will be rocky. It is normal for all kids – no matter the age – to be more tired and irritable, have meltdowns, and act in ways that they might not usually during the first days/weeks of school. This is all part of adjusting to a new schedule, routine and expectations.
However, it’s important to remember you are not alone in this transition. Reaching out to your child’s teacher or other parents may provide you with a resource to discuss shared experiences/feelings. But if you or your child need more involved assistance, I encourage you to contact the Child and Family Solutions Center for additional support. We’re here to help.
If you feel like you aren’t sure how to best support your child, teen or young adult. Child and Family Solutions Center is here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get started with supportive services.