Kindergarten Jitters

The students in the Hopkins Stepping Stones program are getting more and more excited about their upcoming entrance into kindergarten next school year. The students have been attending Kindergarten Round-Ups and Kindergarten Bridge evenings with their families. Getting a chance to play in the kindergarten rooms and possibly meet the kindergarten teachers can create a real sense of excitement for all in the family. It can also create a very real case of the kindergarten jitters in your young child. The staff at Stepping Stones would like to offer some strategies for addressing this hesitation and anxiety.

We as parents are so excited for this new adventure with our children. We hope that our children will enjoy this special year as we likely did. Our excitement could possibly be intimidating to our children, however.  Your child may already be feeling nervous about this great unknown, and not really sure she wants to spend every day away from you on a regular basis. We may be setting up too much tension for her if we ask her to be excited about this great mystery as well.  Instead, keep your voice and your manner very matter of fact when you talk to your child about kindergarten. Don’t allow your own anticipation and excitement to overshadow her idea of what it might be like.  For some children, having very low-key discussions around the topic is more helpful. In fact, if you know that your child is struggling with the idea and very nervous, don’t bring up the topic too much during the first half of the summer—be open to listening to her talk about it, but let the first half of the summer be fun for her rather than focused on September.

Your positive attitude around kindergarten and your confidence in your child’s ability to enjoy her school day will do wonders for her outlook. If you are feeling ambiguous about your child going to kindergarten yourself—there is truly a bittersweet element to it all—keep these feelings to yourself. Your child may sense that your own melancholy is a result of something being wrong with kindergarten; if a parent is sad or uncomfortable with the whole thing, then school must be really bad. Keep your own attitude upbeat and excited when you talk about kindergarten—in a more matter-of-fact style—and try to talk about your own very real feelings of sadness with the other adults in your life out of the hearing of your child.

When your child does talk about going to kindergarten, spend much of the time during the conversation listening.  Ask questions that will get at the heart of what she might be nervous about. For instance “What do you think will happen during the day? What do you think the bus ride will be like? What do you think the lunch time will be like?” Often children entering kindergarten are most concerned about lunch and playtime. If your child has questions, answer her as honestly as you can. Let her know there will be more schoolwork involved in the day, and less play time.

The events sponsored by the school district—Kindergarten Round-Up and Kindergarten Bridge—are a great way to explore your child’s school and gain a sense of understanding about the building itself. If you have not been able to make it to these events, call your school’s administrative staff and schedule a tour. When you are at the school with your child walk through the halls, the classrooms, the gym and the cafeteria.  Some parents take pictures of each of these places and make a simple book for their child. In this way you can use the book to talk about the different parts of the school and the different parts of the school day. Include a map of important parts of the school. This will help to acquaint her with the way the school is laid out. The child can leaf through the book on her own as her curiosity begins to grow. In addition, don’t miss the school sponsored playground evenings in August. This is a great way to meet other kindergarten families, give your child a chance to get to the know the playground, get a fun feeling about the school before it starts, and meet future schoolmates.

Before the August events occur, put some strategies in place to help build excitement.  For instance, if you know preschool friends or friends from the neighborhood who will also be attending kindergarten at your school, set up some play-dates with these families over the summer to help acquaint your children. Nothing feels better than a friendly face when beginning something new.

Another fun strategy for parents to share the positives of kindergarten as it nears in late summer is by creating a paper chain. Each ring in the chain represents one more day of summer ending, and the countdown to kindergarten beginning. Write a positive and fun part of kindergarten on each paper link, and each evening you take off a ring and read a fun kindergarten fact. Great ideas to add to your paper chain include: getting to see your friend on the bus, getting to ride a bus, getting to eat in the lunchroom, getting to be in the gym, getting to have your own desk.  Talking to your child about what she sees as exciting will create excitement, and help you to fill out those paper chains.

Books about kindergarten are plentiful, and are a great way to bring up the event without making it too overwhelming. The books can help spark a conversation between parent and child.  Here are some favorites:

  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff
  • Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing
  • Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis
  • Welcome to Kindergarten by Ann Rockwell
  • Kindergarten Here I Come by D.J. Steinberg
  • Count Down to Kindergarten by Allison McGee
  • Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come by Nancy Carlson

This last summer before your child goes to kindergarten is such a special one. Enjoy the time you have with her before this great new event reshapes your family life. Find times to relax together and truly enjoy this part of childhood. Kindergarten will come fast enough, and having enjoyed each other thoroughly during the summer, you will all be ready to face that first day with excitement and confidence.

One Response

  1. Thank you, Sara! Very helpful! I have a request in for Miss Bindergarten at Ridgedale Library!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: