United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

August 24, 2017

Surviving the First Month of Kindergarten (and beyond)

Starting kindergarten can be an exciting and stressful time for parents and kids alike.  But these four tips can ease the transition for everyone.

The first days back to school can be stressful for anyone – but for kids starting kindergarten, it’s especially tough. New teachers, new rules, new playgrounds, no naps, new kids who might already know a lot more than they do, of course it’s stressful. And if the child is stressed, the whole family is stressed. So how can you help?

Be prepared

Help your child learn as much about kindergarten in advance as possible. Visit before the school year begins if you can. Meet the teachers, find out about the “cool stuff” – the playground, snacks, the class pet, how they celebrate holidays, class parties, anything to get them in the door. Talk to an incoming first grader for first hand commentary. Discuss a plan with your child so that if something does happen, they know what to do. And talk about an activity you can do with them after the school day is over, so they’ll have something to look forward to.

Be aware

A child who really is unhappy at school may have a learning or developmental delay. Things that would be obvious clues – like an inability to read – often don’t present themselves until kindergarten or later, so a struggling child may look like one who simply isn’t “there yet”. True, most kids will catch up to their peers without much intervention, but some kids fall further and further behind while they wait for us to notice. Stay in touch with the teacher and push for a meeting if necessary – you’re the best advocate your child has.

Be calm

Kindergarten teachers are famous for saying things like “If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I promise not to believe everything he says happens at home.” Your child will absolutely come home from school with stories of persecution. Some will have a grain of truth, some will be misunderstandings and some will be flat out fantasy. Provide a listening ear, but before you panic or fire off an indignant email, talk to the teacher. There will likely be more to the story, and they’ll want the context in case it comes up later in school.

Be kind

Most parents of school-age kids have stories of their children coming home from a day at kindergarten and either falling asleep in their dinner or staging an epic tantrum over something as minor as taking a bath . But think about how hard they’ve worked all day – learning a new set of rules, doing things on their own that used to be done for them, sitting still longer than they probably wanted to. Think about your first day at your first job – and then imagine being five years old. They need to recharge in a safe space – and a little extra dessert wouldn’t hurt.

It’s an exciting time – with lots of ups and downs. But it does get easier. And it goes by so fast; you won’t want to miss a minute.

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