We are absolutely bonkers when it comes to the first anything with our children. It’s no wonder then that the first day of kindergarten elicits a myriad of anxiety ridden thoughts and over the top actions. Trust me I know, I’ve been a parent of a first-time student and I’m also a cat herder, I mean kindergarten teacher. I’ve seen it all before, and it ain’t pretty.
Here are some suggestions to help you ease into this much anticipated day.
1. Don’t over-prepare for the first day.
We have been waiting and preparing for this day for five years. We have the first day outfit and the Pinterest sign all ready to go so the picture can be immediately posted on Facebook. We have our Kleenex ready for our ugly cry, and we have already written the note to go in our child’s lunchbox indicating that this is not abandonment.
If you make this day out to be a huge spectacle, every other day will be like the day after Christmas: A huge fricken letdown. It is a special day, but try to minimize the activities that will not occur in your everyday school routine. Your child doesn’t need an after school toy for making it through the first day.
2. It’s not all about the ABC’s.
We think of kindergarten as learning sounds and letters, but there are other prerequisite skills that are just as important. Teach your child how to tie their own shoes. This may seem trivial, but when kids’ shoes are untied, they do some pretty screwed up things with the laces. They pick their noses, tie them to their friends’ laces, and it’s a distraction that compares to someone farting while the teacher is reading. Put them in Velcro if this isn’t happening before the first day. Students should also know how to hold the pencil correctly, write their names, and know that a glue stick isn’t Chapstick. Kinder 101.
3. Get plenty of rest.
I know this is easy to say, but you will probably be up all night with thoughts like,” What if my child pees his pants or worse makes no friends?” Let me be here to reassure you that they will make friends, eventually, if not the first day of school. I rarely see a child with no friends. In fact, the majority of kids in the classroom, I can’t get to shut up. You know who will like your child if they happen to be one of those rare children who don’t talk in class, the goddamn teacher, that’s who. Take a warm bath, drink a glass of milk, and get to sleep early. If sleep alludes you, take a nap after drop off. Your child will make friends; just don’t push it.
4. Kiss and go.
Parents of first time kindergarteners make the mistake of thinking, “I’ll just stay a few minutes so my child feels more comfortable.” Who the hell are we kidding? It is you who needs to feel more comfortable. This sends a message that your child needs to be comforted. As soon as you slyly try to sneak out, your child will let out a blood curdling scream that can be heard in the front office, and a good first impression will not be made.
If you are lucky enough to have a seasoned teacher, they will most likely position their entire body blocking the classroom door so no parents can enter. Windows will be covered with butcher paper making sure to allow no gaping holes for parents to wave furiously at their child. Kiss your child and go, and they will know there is no cause for alarm. They will be reassured by your demeanor that this is a safe and healthy place to be, and their nerves will be calmed.
5. This is not the Inquisition.
Your child will more than likely not want to rehash every bit of their day. I know, not fair. Try not to ask the dreaded question, “Did you make a friend today?” if you can at all resist. Your child will be more likely to share information spontaneously. A general question like,” What was your favorite part of the day?” might be better than, “Do you like your teacher?” Avoid yes or no questions, and try to keep all interactions as positive as possible.
If your child does happen to share that kindergarten was not the best thing since sliced bread, please don’t make plans to switch schools at this point. Your child is five and developing. The best way to support separation anxiety is to be reassuring and confident that school will be a fun and positive place. Enjoy this special time as they will be teenagers soon.