Your child might be telling you that he is ready for school. Asking you everyday if it's time to go yet. Walking around with his new, super cool (insert favourite cartoon character here) backpack. Or your child might be telling you that he is not ready. Usually with crocodile tears pleading to please let him stay home with you.
Then there is the feelings of you, the parent. Likely if this is your first kindergarten send off you are feeling nervous or sad yourself. This could be true if this is your last kindergarten send off too. It doesn't seem to matter if your child is ready to skip off happily or is leeching onto your leg, either way you are left an emotional mess.
The important thing is that you hide it and hide it well. Your child will sense your uncertainty and it can affect how well your child adjusts to kindergarten. Talk about the fun they will have and the friends they will make. Let them pick out their backpack and lunchbox. Tell them you will pick them up and something you will do together (i.e. go to the park, watch a show together, read a story etc). This will give them something to look forward to.
Kindergarten brings a lot of independence. Yes, your child's teacher and early childhood educator team will help with zippers and boo-boos. But there are plenty of simple things you can do to help your child be successful at completing many tasks independently.
- Buy shoes that your child can easily put on by himself. Either slip-ons or velcro. Avoid flip flops, fancy sandals, and shoes that are not suitable for play.
- Dress for play. Messy, messy play. If paint or mud got on their clothes you don't want to be upset about it. Save the fancy stuff for home. If your child will wear a skirt or dress put shorts on underneath. Trust me. This is important.
- Give your child time in the morning to practice dressing themselves. The teacher can help with zippers but your child should be able to put their sweater or coat on. This is especially important in the winter months. I will write a separate post outlining my fool proof method for ensuring a warm and dry play experience.
- Make sure your child knows how to wipe their own bum. No one can help your child in this area. They need to practice this at home.
- Label everything you want brought back home. This included a zip up sweater that they might take off.
- Pack extra clothes including socks. Accidents can happen, and sometimes play gets too messy and requires a change of clothes for comfort.
- Pack your child's lunch in containers that they can open. Pack foods they are used to eating. Include a spoon or fork if required. You wouldn't believe how often kids have yogurt but no spoon.
- Be early for pick up the first week or so. Many kindergarten classes will dismiss earlier than the regular school bell (ask your teacher for time). An anxious child will become upset when they see other children leaving and you are not there. Once they are settled in they will be ok waiting a few extra minutes to see your smiling face.
- Avoid asking your child "what did you do today?". Instead try asking "what was your favourite thing about school today" or "what did you do in gym or library". You will get a better response if you narrow down your question.
The first few weeks can be difficult. It's an adjustment to new routines, new friends, new teachers, and new expectations. But it will get better. Your child will grow so much this year and amaze you with all the things they are now capable of. But don't worry too much, they still need you. They need cuddles, attention, love and encouragement,
On the first day of school when you drop your child off at school, whether your child is skipping along or clinging to your leg, know that he will be okay and so will you.