As hard as it is to believe, the new school year is just around the corner. If you have a child who is about to begin his or her Kindergarten year, you may notice some hesitation when you talk about Kindergarten or school in general. It’s normal for children to show some signs of anxiety when presented with a new, unfamiliar situation. Whether your child is showing a little or a lot of anxiety when talking about the new school year, there are steps you can take to ease your child’s mind and increase the chances that he or she will have a more positive outlook on this new adventure:
1. Bring Your Child to the School Before The School Year Begins
If your child has many opportunities to visit the school, it will be a more familiar setting when the first day of school arrives. You can drive your child by the school and point out different features of the building. Many schools have playgrounds that are open to public use; not only will visiting the playground give your child a chance to become familiar with the school, but it also helps the child develop positive associations with his or her new school (“Wow, I can’t wait to go to school to use that playground!”). Many times, the school personnel are happy to show parents and children around the building during summer months to help anxious children become acquainted with the building.
2. Find Opportunities for Your Child to Meet Classmates
If your child knows some of his or her classmates before school starts, it can make the transition easier. Many children can get anxious because of the new social scene into which they’ve been thrown, so introducing them to their future classmates beforehand can make school much more comfortable. Many towns have local parent Facebook groups in which Kindergarten parents set up local play dates so that their children can get to know each other. Ask a parent from your child’s preschool class if he or she would like to get the children together before the new school year starts. Sometimes, schools will offer social events such as ice cream socials so that new students can become familiar with each other. No matter what opportunities are available in your area, seek them out and help your child meet his or her new classmates.
3. Practice New Routines
Once school begins, your child will be exposed to many new routines. Helping him or her become familiar with these routines can help reduce school anxiety. If possible, practice these new routines over the summer. For example, getting to and from school will be a routine each and every day. If you plan to drive your child to school, drive your child to school as many times as you can over the summer so that the route becomes familiar. If your child will take the bus, have conversations about what to expect on buses, and make sure to attend the bus orientation (if your school provides it) before the school year starts. Another routine will be cleaning up after oneself. Encourage your child to clean up his or her snack area when done eating. Your child can also put clothing in the laundry basket and put toys away when done using them. Once you know your child’s teacher, ask the school if you can contact the teacher to learn about class routines that you can begin practicing with your child at home.
4. Help Your Child Develop Positive Expectations
By setting positive expectations for Kindergarten, you can help your child get excited about this new adventure. Talk about how fun learning is and how the brain grows when it learns new things. Discuss fun activities in which your child will engage with friends. If you’ve shown your child the school’s playground, talk about the twisty slide or the monkey bars (or whichever part of the playground interests your child). Try to refrain from showing your negative feelings and predictions about the school year. Children learn from listening to and watching others, so if you are negative about the school year, chances are that your child will be as well.
5. Don’t Let Your Child Avoid School
If your child shows a lot of anxiety on the first day of school, try very hard not to let your child skip the school day. School refusal is often seen when children transition to a new school. Allow your child’s teacher to take him or her into the classroom and get your child acquainted with peers or an interesting activity. If you get into the habit of keeping your child home from school or taking your child home once you arrive at school, you might inadvertently send the message to your child that school is something of which to be afraid. Trust that your child’s teacher will help him or her become comfortable separating from you and joining the classroom. If the situations becomes a significant struggle, it’s best to consult with a professional.
Adapted from the American Psychological Association’s “7 Things To Do This Summer To Get Your Child Ready For Kindergarten.” For more information, the original article can be found here: http://psychlearningcurve.org/kindergarten/?utm_source=Psych+Learning+Curve&utm_campaign=b8b48e0302-get_ready_kindergarten_july_26_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ff6044c3a5-b8b48e0302-200915209