No matter what school your child will be attending, September marks the start of the school year…. On the flipside, that means we still have a few more days of summer fun. Bottom line. . . enjoy them, that’s your to-do list between now and when they start Kindergarten.
Still, it would be a little silly to pretend that the all of the “back to school” displays in the stores are not having some kind of anxious effect on children who are on the brink of starting their first day of kindergarten. There is something about sharpened pencils, crayola boxes, beautiful backpacks, and colorful new lunch boxes that get everyone excited for the change in season around the corner. Something to keep in mind, however, is that young children may or may not be experiencing the same kind of elation of excitement as others. Many children may be worried, fearful, or extremely stressed over the concept of starting kindergarten. There are many activities that parents can do to prepare for the transition to kindergarten; ideas like drive by the school, buy supplies, pick out first day of clothes the night before, etc. This particular blog, however, focuses more on the nervous emotions that are often times involved with starting kindergarten. Below are a few nurturing ways to help support your future kindergartener work through overwhelming jitters that may accompany starting school.
- You are your child’s anchor. Your child needs to know that when the world is changing around them you will be stable and they can count on your for comfort when feelings are hard to navigate. Be available when they want to talk about emotions, be available when they don’t talk about emotions. No matter what, give off the vibe of “I’m here when you’re ready.”
- Help them label emotions. Supplement them with words that describe what they are feeling. “Do you feel like you have butterflies in your tummy?” “Are you palms feeling clammy?” “Is your chest fluttering?” “Do your feet feel like running?” Allowing them to put names to their feelings will help them understand that their feelings are real and their feelings are important to recognize. Be ready to introduce words like overwhelmed, puzzled, confused, anxious, tense, nerves, shakes, shivers, etc.
- Let them lead the conversation. Do your best to follow along with active listening. Use gestures like head nodding, eye contact (if appropriate), phrases like “tell me more about that” or “can you give me an example?” Remember, conversations like these can happen anywhere like while driving, going out on a walk, in between tooth brushing and getting ready for bed. When they initiate the topic, be ready to follow.
- When appropriate help them draw parallels with similar situations that you yourself might have experienced. Of course, be careful to NOT downplay their emotions or invalidate them. Remember, their worries are real to them.
- If talking may not be helping, think of other ways that can provide an outlet for your child’s kindergarten jitters. Visit your local library for books about starting kindergarten, have a playdate with other children starting kindergarten or who maybe even children who will now be first graders. Use emoji cards for your child to point at as visuals for feelings about kindergarten. Think about creating a routine with your child for steps to take when s/he is feeling nervous about kindergarten. An easy routine to practice when there are “butterflies in your tummy” or “your hands are clammy” might be: Stop. Breath in, breath out. What emoji am I feeling? This routine will help your child to focus on paying attention to the physiological changes in their body when they are feeling nervous. It will also remind them that the next step is to slow down and identify their current state. It will put a label to their feeling and allow them to process that feeling.
The Parenting Hub would love to hear from you and how your support your kindergartener. Please send your questions and comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org