The first day of kindergarten is a rite of passage for many children and their families. It’s filled with new promises, potential friendships, photos, smiles, and, of course, anxiety. I remember feeling anxious myself walking my own son to his first day of school. He asked me to follow ten steps behind him as if he were already in middle school.
I’ve caught up with kindergarten teachers to find out the scoop on the first few days of school and what they would like to share with parents. So, here you have it:
If your child has a separation anxiety, let the teacher know. It would be better for you to leave right away as hanging out around the classroom only makes matters worse. The teachers know how to handle it and they unanimously agree that that the sooner a parent or guardian leaves, the sooner their child stops crying. Teachers have many tricks up their sleeves as your child isn’t the first to get upset when it’s the time to say goodbye. The general recommendation from the kindergarten veterans is to make a plan for saying goodbye at home. If that doesn’t work, ask the school counselor or school psychologist for help. Years ago, I saw a little girl who had a very difficult time leaving her parents. After drilling for more insight I discovered that she was missing her princess blanket. I called her mom, who cut a little piece from the blanket that the girl could bring to school, which really helped. Not every situation will have such an easy fix but collaborating with your child’s teacher (and a school counselor if needed) will often result in an effective solution.
Some parents want to talk to a teacher about their child’s difficulties and often pick the worst time to do so which often means coming in to meet with the teacher before he or she has officially started their workday. The teachers do want to learn about your kids, but please be considerate of time and place. Just because a teacher is in doesn’t mean that they are ready to drop everything. Often a teacher won’t remember a rundown about your child’s medication if you try to catch them before they have to take attendance and do lunch count. E-mail a teacher and schedule a conference for the first few days of school. It’s okay to give your teacher heads up, if “Johnny didn’t eat his breakfast and might be crabby,” or that “Abby has to go to the bathroom a lot and you don’t know why” but it would be better to keep the rest of the story for conference time.
While it is good to have some basic pre-academic skills like being able to spell their name or know the alphabet, most kindergarten teachers are concerned with the development of social-emotional and self-help skills. At the beginning of the year, it is important for a kindergartener to know how to ask a staff for help, as well as being able to unpack their backpack.
Finally, please do not peek in the window. It’s understandable that you want to make sure if your child is okay. They are. After all, this is a school, not boot camp. While your child is cute, it’s not cute to see a grown-up trying to sneak a peek. Trust me, it looks a little creepy. It also can make it harder for your child to settle in and distract other children.
For your own peace of mind, try to remember that kindergarten teachers have dealt with many things before; they know what they are doing and most importantly, they love what they do and they love your children.
Olga Caffee is a school psychologist and a mental health counselor associate. If you think that your child having difficulties with kindergarten adjustment, feel free to contact Olga at 206.432.0096