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Published on August 11, 2020

preschool students in class

Help Your Kindergartener Have a Successful Start

Transitions from preschool to kindergarten can be challenging for parents and children alike.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, have a nanny, or your child attends an in-home or childcare center, by this time in a child’s life they have adjusted to family or daycare providers.  Relationships have been built, trust has been earned, and routines had been set in place. Then you throw in a curve ball such as starting kindergarten. 

Kindergarten is a whole new ball game. There are more kids in the classroom, larger buildings, and a lot more expectations that come with being in an elementary school.  Parents struggle with the idea of someone else stepping in to help raise their child and some desperately want to keep their child little and not let them grow up. 

Tears, Fears and The Kids

On the first day of school you have parents crying, parents standing outside the classroom trying to get a glimpse of their child, and the occasional parent who sits in their car trying to pull themselves together long enough to put the care in drive. We are flooded with a field of emotions; but what about your child?

This new environment has only been seen on open-house night, for maybe 20 minutes, while they learn where to hang their coat and backpack and where the bathroom is. Starting kindergarten can increase anxiety in not only the parent but the child too. Will the other kids like me? What if I need to use the restroom? What happens if I get lost?

Some children may feel very excited to go to kindergarten, and that can be normal as well; especially for a child who has already been preparing by attending preschool. For a child who has already been exposed to a classroom learning environment and routines this is an easier transition.

Tips to Help Kids Transition to Kindergarten

  • Try to remain calm yourself. As an adult we have already learned how to adapt to our emotions and control them. However, your child who is only 5 or 6 or six has not yet fully reached that point in their development.  We can hold back our feelings for a moment to help our child to navigate theirs.  
  • Attend the open house, take pictures of the classroom, have a picture taken with the teacher, and show your child around the building. Print your pictures so your child can hold them and look at them whenever they choose to.
  • Reading books about going to kindergarten is also a great way to help children prepare.  Talking through situations in the books is a great way to encourage your child to think about questions or feelings they may have. There are many books related to starting kindergarten that offer many different scenarios to talk through with your child. Check your local library or search online for books.

So, here you are the night before kindergarten. The clothes have been picked out, the supplies all labeled, and the backpack is ready. Now what? Take this time to answer any questions or address concerns that may be fleeting through their mind. Answer each one with a gentle voice and remind your child they can do this.

Talk Through Fears and Feelings

In some situations it may help to discuss how you are feeling as well so they know they aren’t alone in this. Sharing your feelings can help validate theirs. If you are feeling anxious you can use that to help your child talk through their fears. “Mommy is a little scared too, but I know you will have fun and will love going to school, and I will love that you are having fun too.” 

Life changes, such as kindergarten, can be a wonderful experience given the right time and tools to prepare. Taking steps to prepare can help set up a successful educational experience for you and your child. Next step … middle school.

By Karen Rieck, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

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