When preparing a child for kindergarten, most parents are concerned about the alphabet and numbers. Kindergarten is a big life change though, especially for children who have been home with a parent their entire life. It is also important to mentally prepare your child for kindergarten.
In addition to academic skills, your child will need to be quite independent in kindergarten. Instead of waiting until the last minute and trying to hurriedly prepare your child for being independent in kindergarten, give him self-confidence ahead of time by allowing him to help prepare his own food (when safe), dress himself, and handle going to the bathroom alone. Mentally preparing your child to be independent will give him the skills and self-confidence needed to make kindergarten less scary.
If you are overly anxious or sad about your child starting kindergarten (I’m there!), try not to let your child pick up on it. It’s okay to let them know they will be missed, but you don’t want them feeling guilty for starting school. Work on mentally preparing yourself for kindergarten as you help your child mentally prepare for the change.
I will always remember my first day of school. I had heard my mom talking to her friends about how sad she was about me starting kindergarten, and she repeatedly said things like, “first it’s kindergarten, then she’s leaving home!” On the first day of school, I remember crying and telling my mom, “I guess I’ll be leaving home now.” A young child doesn’t always understand your anxiety, so be careful what you say around them. Be sure to remind your child that you will be back to pick them up in the afternoon. Before school starts, help your child understand this by saying “this is about the time of day I’ll be picking you up from school” when you are home with them.
To help your child be mentally prepared for kindergarten, watch videos and read books about school, and talk to them about things that you did when you were in school. If you have pleasant memories of starting kindergarten, share them with your child. Talk about the “big kids” you know who are in school, and it never hurts to have them tell your child how fun school is. Sometimes things mean more coming from another child than a parent.
Playing school with your child is a great way to mentally prepare him for kindergarten, and it’s a great way to practice following rules, being quiet while the teacher is speaking, raising his hand, lining up, and other behaviors that will be expected of him in kindergarten. It’s also a great way to practice the academic skills your child will need for kindergarten.
If it’s possible, a visit to the school your child will be attending is a great way to mentally prepare them for the big transition to kindergarten. Children have big imaginations, and they can have big fears of the unknown. Seeing children at school, in classrooms, and just knowing where they will be may be comforting for your child.
While your teaching your child all of the ABC’s and 123’s, don’t forget to mentally prepare them for kindergarten. Even if your child is excited about school, kindergarten is a big adjustment. Start early and give your child plenty of love and support, along with the mental and emotional skills necessary, and he will have a successful year in kindergarten.