Get Ready for Kindergarten

Young boy with nervous smile waits to board school bus

Get Ready for Kindergarten

Curing the Kindergarten Jitters

It’s National Get Ready for Kindergarten month. If you’re a parent with a child who is about to head to “big kid” school for the first time, you may be faced with an anxious little one—plus you may have some jitters yourself!

According to Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, starting a new school can be a challenging situation for many children. “There are lots of new people, routines and lessons to be learned,” she says. “But the good news is that there are many things that parents can do to ease this rite of passage.”

If your school allows it, plan to bring your child to their classroom to meet their teacher before the school year begins. Also take them to see the gym, the playground, cafeteria, library, nurse’s office, etc.

“Call the school now to set up a time to visit, even if the teacher won’t be available,” says Cohen. “The unknown is what’s most scary for children, so the more you can familiarize them with the school and the routine, the less worried they will be.”

Help for Cash-Strapped Parents

If purchasing supplies is a financial hardship, help is available. Many churches, community groups and other organizations offer free backpacks and other items on your school shopping list. Here are some places to contact for help:

But be careful not to put your own fears onto your child. “A lot of parents reflect on their own first-day jitters, and they assume their child feels the same way,” says Cohen. “Listen carefully to what they tell you. Let them express all their feelings, which may include fear but also excitement!”

Below are some more suggestions to make the transition as smooth as possible:

  • Some schools help set up late summer playground events for incoming kindergartners. If they do, take advantage of the opportunity for your child to meet some new friends.
  • Talk about what they are going to learn; make a game of “playing school” by introducing some of the activities that go on in a typical school day.
  • Bring them with you when you shop for school supplies. Choosing their own folders, pencils, crayons and the like will make the experience feel special.
  • Get your child on a regular bedtime schedule before school begins so they are accustomed to getting up at the same time they’ll need to awaken for school.
  • Sit together and make a morning game plan—what are some breakfast ideas, which outfits will they want to wear their first week, and how they will be getting to school. If you can, do some practice runs (or walks) to the bus stop, if they’ll be taking one.
  • Teach your child their basic contact information, including the correct spelling of their name, their address and their phone number. Also help them practice writing their own names.
  • Make sure they know how to take their shoes on and off, and also how to zip up their backpacks.

Most of all, relax! When you give your children a chance to talk about all of their emotions and react calmly to whatever they say, it reassures them that everything will be alright. “Don’t be upset if they’re not upset,” says Cohen. “They may hop on the bus and do just fine.”