Thinking about going to kindergarten can be nerve-wracking, even if it’s more than six months before the first day of school. With sign-ups starting now, you can help your child get prepared for this new challenge by taking some of the following steps.
Visit the school in advance.
Consider a visit with your child this spring, prior to her kindergarten entry. Some New Jersey districts arrange these visitations as a matter of course; it should help her feel more familiar and comfortable with the school.
Arrange play dates with other children.
You and your child will feel more comfortable as kindergarten approaches if he knows someone attending the same class or school.
Have your child spend time with adults other than parents.
If your child isn’t used to being supervised by other adults, a visit with relatives or family friends will help to ease the upcoming separation for both of you, and it will help your child learn to adjust to different adult styles.
Help your child learn to enjoy books.
This will foster an appreciation of the joys of reading and promote language development. Introduce your child to your public library. Other language activities: play word or rhyming games, read nursery rhymes, or make a scrapbook with pictures of items beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
Help your child learn basic skills, information, and expressions.
By kindergarten, she should know her full name, address, and telephone number. If she has difficulty retaining this information, try teaching it through a nursery rhyme. If necessary, teach her the proper expressions for asking to go to the bathroom and requesting help without whining or demanding.
Don’t dwell on the subject of school.
Doing so may suggest to your child that it’s worrisome for you, which may arouse anxiety. Rather, try to talk about it as part of the normal course of family events. A week or so before school begins, explain to your child what will happen in school.
Allow your child to express fears or worries.
It’s natural for children about to enter kindergarten to be apprehensive, but your reassurance will help. Some of his concerns can be alleviated by talking about the enjoyable activities he’ll be doing in kindergarten. Others may only abate as your child begins school and sees that his fears are without foundation. Giving your child “permission” to share these feelings enables you to comfort him. You might remind him of other new situations he has faced and mastered. Keep in mind that older children can sometimes arouse fear in a younger child with school horror stories. If this happens, put an end to it quickly. It’s important to stay positive.
Dr. Kenneth Shore is a school and family psychologist in NJ, and a part-time instructor at Rutgers. Visit his website at drkennethshore.nprinc.com.