The end of summer brings with it growing excitement about the start of school - for parents and children! However, if your child is heading off to kindergarten, it can also churn up some anxiety. Kids worry that they won’t know their way around the school, that they won’t like their teacher, or have friends in their class. Parents fret about all those things too, on top of wondering how they will navigate that emotional goodbye on the first day. While all these anxieties are common, there are some things that parents can do to prepare their child (and themselves) for this important step in their academic and social-emotional development. Here are some tips for helping your child develop a positive and confident outlook about heading off to school and for navigating a case of the kindergarten jitters.
Plan a School Visit
Don’t assume that access to your new school is limited to official events. Most schools will welcome your child to campus over the summer, especially if they know that it will ease their fears about starting kindergarten. At Fay, we offer “popsicle playdates” during the summer months to help acclimate new students. Incoming kindergarteners can share a sweet treat, play on the playground, and hopefully make a few new friends. In August, a New Student Picnic is followed by an opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with the teacher and an All-School Picnic the day before school starts. Even if your child’s new school doesn’t offer similar events, you can call and request a visit as the start of school gets closer. The opportunity to walk the halls and see the classrooms without students can have a calming effect and allow a child to visualize what school will be like.
Explore Summer Programs at Your New School
Many schools host summer camps
or other programming during the summer months. Signing up your child for camp or an activity at their new school can be a great way to introduce them to campus. They won’t feel like as much of a new student in September if they already know their way around school!
Nurture Early Friendships
One friend can make all the difference in how a child feels about the first day of kindergarten. If your school doesn’t offer an opportunity to meet classmates during the summer, you can create your own! Reach out to other kindergarten parents on Facebook, where many towns have parent groups, and see if other kindergarten parents would like to get the kids together at a local playground.
Go Shopping for School Together
Picking out a special “big-kid” backpack and choosing school supplies can be a great way to build some excitement for kindergarten. Take your child with you on a dedicated trip to the store and include them in the fun of getting ready for school.
Have a “Goodbye Plan”
Fay’s Head of Primary School, Katie Knuppel, recalls her son’s surprise years ago when she dropped him off for kindergarten. “He thought that I was supposed to go to school with him, and I realized that I had just assumed that he knew that I wasn’t!” Uh-oh! Katie suggests that you and your child create a drop-off routine together and practice it before the first day. Whether it’s a high-five and one hug, or a kiss and a special handshake, you can come up with a fun drop-off routine that sends your child into school feeling confident and avoids any last-minute clinging or sadness.