Is Your Child Starting Kindergarten This Year?

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If your child is starting kindergarten this year, this can be a very challenging time for both of you. As a parent, you may have worries about how your child will fare in school, both emotionally and academically. This may be the first time your child will be away from you for a long period of time. Your son or daughter may be afraid, not knowing what to expect.

Whether your child is scared or raring to go, starting kindergarten is a big change for little ones

Dr Lauren Adler, Westchester Health Pediatrics

Lauren Adler, MD

He or she may be worried about making new friends, and might be anxious about spending several hours a day in a new, bustling environment. Or, maybe your child will have no fear whatsoever and is ready to go, jumping on the bus the first day with a confident smile and barely a wave good-bye! However your child approaches the big new world of kindergarten, the pediatricians of Westchester Health Pediatrics are here to help.

Taking the bus without Mom or Dad, obeying many more rules than they may be used to, making new friends, meeting new teachers, managing school supplies, learning new concepts, finding the bathrooms…that’s a lot!

To help make the transition for you and your child easier, here are 8 tried and true, parent-approved tips:

  1. During the summer, start talking openly to your child about what to expect at school.

    Without being too intense about it, try to get your child to talk about his/her feelings. Reading stories together about the first day of school is a great idea. Some especially good books for this are: The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell, Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis, Ready for Kindergarten, Stinky Face? By Lisa McCourt and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

  2. Make sure your child has mastered some basic self-care skills prior to the first day of school.

    Kindergarteners-to-be should be able to dress themselves and use the toilet by themselves. Helping your child be successful at school by dressing him/her in easy-to-remove clothing is a smart idea to make this task easier for them. Skip the fancy dresses and tights for girls, and no belts for boys. For both sexes, pants with elastic waist bands are the best bet.

  3. Over the summer, start making your child responsible for some basic chores around the house.

    These can include putting away their toys and clearing their plate after dinner. At school, they will be responsible for their things, so it’s really helpful get them used to this ahead of time.

  4. Sleep and diet are super-important to give your child energy to make it through a long day and to help him/her learn.

    Try to make sure your kindergarten-age child gets at least 10-12 hours of sleep at night. Hint: Start working on this in August. Many times, bedtime gets pushed later with the long summer days but as the first day of school gets closer, try getting your child in bed 10 minutes earlier each night. Remember, depending upon what time the bus comes, your child may need to wake up early than they are used to in order to get ready for school.

    A hearty and healthy breakfast starts the morning off right. Some ideas for quick and healthy breakfast are: scrambled eggs and fresh fruit, or whole grain cereal with skin milk and berries.

    Make lunchtime healthy as well. No need to pack juice boxes and cookies; opt instead for a sandwich on whole grain bread with skim milk or water. Or for fun, make your own “Bento Box.” In different sized containers, pack some edamame or sugar snap peas, along with cut-up cheese sticks and carrots. Greek yogurt and fruit also make a quick and healthy lunch. Remember, your child may not have a long time to eat lunch, so make the packaging easy to manipulate and don’t send large portions or it will just come home again.

  5. Even though you will, don’t tell your child that you will miss them and feel sad that they are gone.

    This only ensures that they will also feel sad. We have noticed in our practice that often, young children will not want to go to school because they are concerned that their mommy or daddy will miss them too much. Instead, focus on how much fun they will have at school and talk about the things you will do together when they get home.

  6. Create first day of school traditions.

    This may be a photo of your child taken at the same spot every year on both the first and last day of school. You can then start to create a photo album to track your child’s growth over the years. Or fix your child a special breakfast for the first day that’s repeated every year. Perhaps prepare your child’s favorite food for dinner after the first day. Get creative and you’ll be amazed at how even little things can turn into memories that will last for years and help ease the transition into each new level of school.

  7. Make sure that you advocate for your child.

    If your kindergartener has a medical problem or will require medications at school, make an appointment to meet the school nurse ahead of time. You may even want to bring your son or daughter with you so he/she can meet the school nurse as well. If your child has been receiving special services or has an IEP, make sure these remain in place for September. You can make an appointment to meet the teacher, principal or service provider early in the school year so you can discuss any concerns that you have for your child.

  8. Many schools in our area have an active PTA.

    If you can, make time to volunteer on the PTA or in your child’s classroom (if only 1-2 hours). This will give you an opportunity to see firsthand what goes on in the school and will allow you to get to know your child’s new friends and their parents.

Beginning kindergarten is one of the many transitions you and your child will embark on together.

Helping your child be prepared both emotionally and developmentally is extremely important to make this transition successful. In addition, understanding your own emotions about this big step will allow you to help your child navigate this journey.

Remember: Your pediatrician is a trusted source of reliable information as your son or daughter heads off to kindergarten. Please take advantage of our expertise!

Good luck. They’ll be fine!

You might also find these two pages helpful from our Westchester Health Pediatrics website:

By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

For more back-to-school advice, tips and ideas, get our
“BACK TO SCHOOL GUIDE: 10 Key Things Parents Should Know As Their Child Returns To School” by clicking here.

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About the Author: ML Ball