Dear Kindergarten Parent,
As summer comes to an end, many of us find ourselves in new territory. We have a child entering kindergarten (cue sobbing parents everywhere). Now, as a mom of three and a former elementary school teacher, I have to affirm that the first day jitters don’t only happen at home. Teachers both old and new see the new school year as a fresh start. The classrooms are ready with freshly sharpened pencils, neatly aligned crayons, and bright unused markers. The glue sticks are sticky as ever and the first few weeks of lessons have been mulling over in the teachers’ minds all summer. There are new posters on the walls and lesson plans neatly filed in a plan book. The teachers are ready for the routine, and for the fresh faces to walk through the door. The kindergarten teachers are especially excited, as they have the privilege to be the first teacher that our kids have ever had. They are ready to love our children and watch their progress from the beginning to the end of the year. The physical, social, emotional, and academic progress is always a sight to be seen.
These new experiences can be so exciting for our blossoming kids and eager teachers, however, it can be slightly more terrifying for us parents. Will our kids be challenged? Will they be nurtured? Will they make friends? Will they tell someone if they have a problem? These are questions that parents around the globe are asking of our teachers. As a mom sending her second child to kindergarten this year (with one more entering next year), I have more assurance and confidence in myself, my teachers, and my kids than I did the first time around. But, of course the concerns are still there because every child is different, and after all, we are sending our babies out in the world. (How will they survive without us all day?!) I do know more about what to expect and what I can do as a parent to make this a successful first year for my child. Here are a few things I have learned.
Don’t stress on what they don’t know.
More than any other grade, kindergarten students enter school at all different learning levels. Some have been to preschool, while others have never set foot in a school. Some can read, while others don’t know the alphabet. Obviously, the more they know, the easier the content will be, but ALL students will make progress, no matter where they start.
Advocate for your child.
No one knows your child better than you. Be assertive and be prepared to talk with the school regarding anything that will make your child unsafe such as allergies, health issues, emotional issues, etc. Don’t ever feel that you are being pushy or annoying. WE MUST ADVOCATE FOR OUR KIDS.
Stick to the basics at home.
For many kids, going to school is their first time without parent assistance. Going to the bathroom on their own, dressing themselves, opening lunch items, and washing hands can be tricky and stressful events for them during the day. Packing lunch items they can open on their own, encouraging independence with the bathroom, and self-care are all things we can do at home to make them more successful.
Prepare for exhaustion.
Our babies will be tired. Expect meltdowns, short tempers, lack of motivation after school and extra cuddles (it’s not all bad). It is a long day for the new kindergarteners, and the new schedule is going to be a lot for them to get used to. Limiting after school activities is a good idea, at least for the first few months, until they get accustomed to the new schedule. Also a prompt bedtime and a good night’s sleep does wonders for a child’s temperament. Our once napless children may start taking naps again. They have been busy at school, so having a less stressful and flexible schedule at home may ease their exhaustion…and moods.
I want to wish all your babies good luck on their new adventure. It is emotional, so don’t be ashamed to cry tears of simultaneous joy and sorrow as we watch our kids enter this next stage of their life. I know that when my kids get home from school each day, I hug their little bodies tighter from missing them. Enjoy their excitement and innocence as they embark on their new adventure. When you feel nervous or scared, especially the first few weeks just remember…the kids will be all right.