The schedule and structure of Kindergarten can be a big departure from a child’s preschool experience. And the first day of Kindergarten can often be a much more abrupt change than the more gradual ways of introducing kids to preschool or daycare. But that apprehension about starting school — even anxiety — can be mitigated by parents by introducing their child to their Kindergarten teacher ahead of time.
Luckily, many schools already have a structure in place to facilitate these Kindergarten teacher introductions explains licensed social worker and PCI Certified Parent Coach Maria Sanders. “Most schools set up ‘meet & greet’ days,” she says – often a preview day for parents and children to come to the classroom, meet the educators and start getting prepared. This is also a chance for kids to meet their classmates, which can be very helpful. “Try to find some classmates that are in the neighborhood. If the child knows one or two students in his/her class, it will help if the parent can set up a few get-togethers at the local playground,” suggests Sanders.
How to Introduce a Child to Kindergarten
- Be Cool – Sometimes parents have their own anxieties about school. Kids easily pick up on their parents’ feelings.
- Be Accepting – It’s tempting to minimize a child’s concerns, but that doesn’t give them the tools to deal with it. Walk through problems so kids can find solutions for themselves.
- Visit the School – Schools often arrange a preview or meeting day for kindergarteners and their parents, but parents can make their own arrangements if necessary.
- Find Classmates – Arranging a couple of playdates with forthcoming classmates can give a child a sense of comfort and support on the first day.
- Start a Routine – Sleeping in during summer makes the first day that much different than the norm. The school day morning routine can start even in summer, so kids are prepared.
- Be Patient – The first days of kindergarten are exhausting. Kids may be cranky or overstimulated.
And if the school doesn’t arrange a preview day, parents can always make arrangements for themselves. A tour would be best – kids can see for themselves what the inside of the school looks like, where the classroom is, and where the bathrooms are, just to start – but even just coming by and letting a future kindergartner see the playground equipment can help.
Most teachers have a school email address publicly available on the school directory – parents can send an email to arrange a meeting or find out more about the teacher. “Ask for a brief description of who the teacher is,” advises Sanders. “For example, what the teacher’s name is, what the teacher’s favorite colors are and if the teacher has any children or any pets.
Sometimes kids need a little more help than just a meet and greet. They may be concerned about different aspects of the school, which is totally understandable. Parents can help prepare for their concerns and teach them to advocate for themselves. “Parents can role-play with their child different scenarios that the child may find concerning,” Sanders says. “For example, some kids worry about where the bathroom is and how they going to get there by themselves. The parent may want to role-play this with the child so that the child can build some confidence in this area.”
The important thing is to remember that even though the first day of school may seem like a minor thing to a parent, it’s a big thing to a child, and it’s worth taking seriously.
“Children going into kindergarten may have a challenging time socially, emotionally, and even physically,” explains Sanders. “Many children going into kindergarten are experiencing a full day of school for the first time. In school, they are expected to sit in a circle, raise their hand, and follow directions often for eight hours a day.”
Will meeting their Kindergarten teacher fix that? It could when combined with all the routines that help a kid feel stable. “Routine and keeping things consistent is very important, especially when children may feel some anxiety about their new school,” Sanders says.