Preparing for the Transition to Kindergarten Advice from Nina Johnston, LICSW
We hope that those who were able to attend Nina Johnston’s Free Parent Program last week on Transitioning and Planning for Kindergarten found it useful. Knowing that not everyone could attend, we asked Nina, a long time partner here at Tobin, to offer some tips we could share with all.
Do not focus on starting Kindergarten quite yet
Time is a very difficult concept to grasp. Children at this age are very concrete and as we talk about going to kindergarten, they are thinking it could be the next day. This can lead to both confusion and general anxiety. Perhaps a known event can be identified and used as a marker. “Kindergarten will start after we visit…, or when camp is over.” I would also suggest, perhaps 10 days before the first day of school, you make a paper chain with your future Kindergartener and each morning cut off a link, maybe even write a fun message on the last link and send them off to school with your positive thoughts.
I am not suggesting you avoid the topic
If your child asks a question about kindergarten, answer the question being asked. Do not give the message that we won’t talk about it, but instead answer the question in a reassuring, brief factual way. “Is that where I will go to kindergarten?” “It is, but not quite yet…” or, “will ____ be in my class?” “We don’t know that quite yet. Let’s remember that question and ask it when we are closer to your first day.” They are not looking for your questions – “Are you excited, nervous, etc.” — or the description of when, how, or how a class list will be determined
Enjoy the new school
Have fun on the playground. Take walks by the school. Make it a familiar part of their world, but not a focused activity and topic.
Remember not to create pressure, they are only 5 (or 6)
A great temptation is to use kindergarten as a form of motivation, “You won’t be able to act that way in Kindergarten, Kindergartners know how to___. You are going into kindergarten; you must be very grown up.” In fact, the child’s experience of these sort of statements is to feel overwhelmed, scared and unsure. They will be fine and having had the experience of attending one of the Tobin schools, they are prepared! In addition, Kindergarten teachers are very experienced at helping children adjust, they know children have bad moods, might not be able to open their snack, etc.
Do not be surprised if you see some regression
Often times children at this developmental stage will revert to baby talk. This is normal, perhaps frustrating for the adults, but a way your child is expressing that sometimes growing up is hard, even scary. Do not get upset, simply ask them to repeat their question or thought in a voice you might have an easier time understanding. This too shall pass.
Your child may tell you they don’t like their new school – don’t panic
Just like their current school, staying home might feel like more fun. Try to find out the schedule and activities they enjoy. “It looks like you have music today, If we get moving you will have time on the playground or free play in the classroom.” Remember to ask, “What was your favorite thing at school today” instead of “How was school?” When they give something specific, you can refer to these fun activities when they are not wanting to go in.