Off to School: Transitioning into Kindergarten

The big day has finally come, it is your child’s first day of school. Whether it be dropping your child off for the day for the first time, or their first day at kindergarten or preschool, there can be many mixed emotions!  It can be surprisingly difficult as a parent to drop your child off for the first time. You are not alone! Being prepared and understanding the best way to approach the first day of school can help ease anxiety for the entire family.

Talk about it before hand.

You can prepare your child for the big day by walking them through what exactly will happen. The fear of the unknown increases anxiety. You can talk about what their morning will look like in detail. You will park your car, walk in together, hang up your bag, and explain that you will then go and they will stay.  Talk about who will pick them up and where to meet.  Have your child, if age appropriate, think of examples of when you left them and then came back. This may reinforce the idea that ‘we will always come back’.

Their feelings are normal.

Separation anxiety in young children is normal. It is a sign that you have done a great job as a caregiver in making your child feel safe! The next step in parenting is encouraging your child to feel safe in their world, even without you. Validate your child’s feelings but keep it positive at the same time. For example, ‘It is okay to feel nervous, and I bet everyone is a little nervous. I can’t wait to hear about all the fun things you do at school.’

Your feelings are normal.

Yes, your feelings are normal too! With that said, recognise that you may have strong emotions on that first day and try to stay strong for your child. They may become fearful if they see tears. Try to provide support for yourself on that day so you don’t have to burden your emotions alone. Go grab coffee with a friend after or take your significant other with you as support.

Make it quick and light.

On the day of school, pretend like you have done drop off a million times already.  Keep the goodbyes quick and happy.  Extended goodbyes may show hesitation.  You child needs to see that you are fully confident in their teacher.  Get all of your answers answered prior to the first day so you can keep this drop off quick.  Your teacher will thank you! If there are tears, be encouraged that they often do not last long and are a good opportunity for the teacher to show your child that they care and will take care of them!

The quick and light motto also applies to the pick up.  Make your hellos happy and short, avoid emotionally drawn out hugs and tears.  This may reinforce that school is something negative, or that you are ‘saving’ your child from school.

The transition into school can be challenging, for both parents and children. Be encouraged that feelings are natural and don’t try to avoid them! Keeping a routine and sticking to it will also help your child with this new routine. Most importantly take care of yourself during the transition. Be kind to yourself, as you are a better parent when you are doing well. If you find that your child is struggling with more than just typical separation anxiety, it may be wise to seek advice of a professional.  If you are interested in booking a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Does my child need assessment or therapy?
Dealing with Your Child’s Increasing Independence
Letting Go: The importance of raising children who learn on their own

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