Tips and Tools to Help You and Your Child Succeed this First Year!
"Back to School" is always one of my favorite times of the year. Ever since I was a kid, I have looked forward to the "first day of school." Indeed my favorite part was getting new clothes and shoes, and taking pictures to add to the photo album book. Since becoming a Mom, I have most certainly enjoyed the excitement of preparing my son having for his "first day" of school each year too. Indeed the time has changed, with the many craft and Pinterest ideas, because I now look forward to creating photo booths and frames to highlight my kiddo on the rise!
Since Jayce's first start in Pre-K3, I have grown more anxious and excited about the BIG FIRST DAY! Even though he has attended child care since 6 months of age, there is is something extremely different and emotional about letting him go to Kindergarten. Moreover, I learned that there are some new expectations and routines that are needed to preserve my sanity as a "school age mom" and my son's more independent and autonomous "big kid" needs. For some very obvious "Mommy reasons" (you know those "Mommy Reasons"....he is my baby, my first and only born, etc.), I have been preparing myself for this day. Holding back the tears, talking about it often, and most importantly, exploring where our needs are changing so that we can both adjust to the new stage of development.
Kindergarten is the official big kid school. Lots of learning will take place. For some children, it may be fine tuning the things that have been learned in Pre-K programs (ABC's, letter and number recognition, writing their names, etc). It is also the time for which children increase their social-emotional cues and development. Children at this age move beyond making friends and expressing their feelings (although they continue to do this in big ways) as they begin to understand right and wrong and follow rules (most of the time). At the same time, they may become very critical of peers who do not follow the rules. They are also becoming more helpful and share more with others. It is also during this great time that our little ones become VERY active—with their hopping, dancing, and jumping around. More often than we desire, our little kindergartner is becoming more goofy and telling silly jokes.
These major changes can become frustrating for parents, especially if you are new to this wave like me, and we find that the techniques and redirection may not be as effective. It is important that we first understand that the silly behavior and some misbehaving are typical of this age. However, making family adjustments to this rapid growth change is critical in preventing disruptive and escalating behavioral problems.
Here a few tips to help you prepare:
1. Help prepare your child for changes in routines and schedules: Some of you may have already started back at school, and others are preparing to return at this time, so it is important that you begin to help your children adjust to their new schedules and changes. You can also help your child prepare for the actual transition to kindergarten by talking about what may happen and the new friends they will meet. You can also read special books about starting Kindergarten and school to start the conversation.It may also be helpful to ride by the school so that they can become familiar with the school. For some children, this may also mean earlier mornings and longer days away from home, extended time focused on classwork and less time at play stations or centers. Children thrive on consistency and routine, so this is a great time to get into a good routine, especially if you do not have one or lost it during the fun summer months. Because our little Kindergartners are becoming more independent and we wish to encourage self-care skills, utilizing schedules and charts may be a great visual reinforcement for your family. It can also prevent the frustration of repeating tasks over and over again.
2. Help your child prepare for the learning curve by finding fun ways to integrate learning into their daily activities. Reading to your child everyday helps your child to explore books, make predictions about what will happen in stories, and encourage your child's active imagination. Be sure to have pencils, crayons, markers, and plenty of paper around for drawing and "writing". Daily journal writing is a key in the Kindergarten curriculum. Other fun activities you can do to integrate learning and family fund are to go on nature or community hunts for interesting things and pointing out words and numbers. Don't forget to encourage your little one to help with household chores (independence and self-care) and LIMIT screen time (TV and video games). Important Note: Learning should always be fun and NEVER used as a consequence or punishment.
3. Healthy eating and sleeping habits = Happy Children! Many children who begin school will be EXTREMELY exhausted at the end of the day, so it is important to make sure our little ones have well-balanced meals and snacks and rest. I encourage you to check to see if your school allows you to pack a snack for your little one. With the changes in schedules (again), their meal times and snacking may cause some major hunger pains and grumpy pants! Getting ample sleep and rest at night is also vital to ensure our kids are "present" and ready to learn. During one of the Kindergarten "check-ins" offered by my school division, the teachers and principals spoke of our little ones possibly falling asleep on the school bus following the long exhausting day. Some children may be accustomed to a mid-day nap, so you will need to start making this adjustment as many Kindergarten programs do not offer a nap time...not like the good old days when were growing up, huh?. Some schools will allow you to bring a beach or large bath towel so that the children can rest their heads. As a general rule, children should have at least 10-12 hours of sleep. Special Tip: Be cognizant of the school supply checklist...especially if blankets and other items are not requested. Remember... while we think solely of comfort for our own children, we have to be aware of the overall health and safety for all 18-20 other children in the classroom.
4. Support your child through the emotional roller-coaster! This is the time that we have to face the reality that our snuggly, cute adorable baby boy and girl are not babies anymore. While they are always going to be our babies, Kindergartners are moving to a stage where they want to be seen as a big kid and have more free range to do learn and figure things out for themselves and require your help a lot less (think of self-care/self-help skills). Indeed, our children want our approval, but they also want to be taken seriously. We may still find that our kindergartners may throw a tantrum or get angry if they think they’re not being listened to or when things don’t go their way. Encourage your child's expressions of feelings by providing them safety and validation. It is important to note that while some children at this age and stage are beginning to understand other people's moods and feelings they are not particularly interested in social relationships which can be quite difficult for children who are sensitive and intuitive (like my little one).
I hope these tips are helpful for you! Remember that no two children are alike. If you have any concerns about your child's development and behavior, you may contact BFE for Parent Coaching or additional support.
SO KINDERGARTEN.... HERE WE COME!