Kindergarten is a milestone in the lives of our kids. We prepare ourselves emotionally for the morning when we drop off our babies at the school doors, but most of us don’t think about the shift in our lives that occurs when we suddenly have a school age child. It’s a game changer and can take some getting used to. Here are some tips to keep you from being blindsided by the new reality that Kindergarten brings to your family.
1. Be Ready For a New Community
This is one of the most important things you need to be prepared for. Once your kid hits Kindergarten, you have an entirely new community that you need to navigate. You need to know parents’ names, kids’ names, and who belongs to whom.
If you’re a social butterfly, this new scene shouldn’t faze you. But if you’re shy, this can be hard. Take it slowly and introduce yourself to some of the other parents as you feel comfortable. The most important thing is to make an effort. When it comes to the day-to-day, birthday parties, sports, play dates and more, you’re going to need to interact with these people. You might as well start sooner rather than later.
2. Don’t Be Late!
Preschool may be casual about the clock but elementary schools are serious about kids being to class on time. Yes, even Kindergarteners. Schools track tardy days and will intervene if there are too many on your child’s record. Now is the perfect time to start building good morning routines that will last throughout your child’s school years.
In Kindergarten, there’s usually no shortage of volunteer opportunities from class parties to field trips. Try to volunteer as early in the year as you can. You can also volunteer to help in the classroom for a couple of hours. The teacher will appreciate it and you’ll get to see first hand how your child interacts with others in the classroom setting. Plus, you get to know the other kids and other parents this way.
If you’re like me and work full time, there are other ways to volunteer such as contributing to class supplies and party items if you can. Next week, I’ll have some tips for working moms as they send their kindergartener off to school.
4. Don’t Overthink Lunch
Kindergarten students typically get a little more time to eat their lunches than older kids and usually have an adult nearby to help them if they need it. That said, first of all, pack what you know your kid will eat. Work with your child to make sure he’s capable of opening most, if not all, of his own lunch items so he doesn’t have to wait for an adult to come and help.
Be aware that some schools sell ice cream, chips or other goodies a la carte. Find out if your cafeteria sells extra items and talk to you child about your family rules. He has to eat his lunch first, for example, before he can get a treat, or he can only buy ice cream on Fridays.
5. Read the Stuff The School Sends Home
Yes, you’ll receive a lot of materials from the school, particularly as a Kindergarten parent. This information will help keep you in the loop (and ultimately lower your stress level). The last thing you want is for your kid to be the only one not dressed in blue for “Blue Day.” While you’re at it, read the School Handbook so you know the school policies and procedures. The more information you have, the better.
6. Keep Paperwork Under Control
Keeping control of the paper that comes home from school is a challenge. At the start of the year, create a system for reviewing your child’s work and then establish a place to keep items you want to save, like art projects, notes from the teacher or report cards. Consider a storage tote or filing cabinet that’s divided by grade. And, you don’t have to save everything. Lose the guilt and only keep things that will delight your child (and you) in a few years when you look through them again.
7. Help Your Child Build Independence
While it’s often easier (and faster!) to do certain things yourself, the more independence you can give your Kindergartener, the easier it will be on everyone – your child, your child’s teacher, and you. Teach your child to tie her shoes, zip her coat, and button her shirt.
In the morning, have your child put the things he needs for the day in his backpack and, when he gets home, take papers out, put them on the table for you to read, put his lunch box on the counter, and then put the backpack away in its designated place.
These skills build confidence and help you out as well.
8. Ask the Teacher About The Schedule
Get a sense of what your kid’s daily schedule is like. What days do the students go to art class? Who is the gym teacher? What time is recess and for how long? This isn’t about hovering; it’s about gaining an understanding your child’s experience during the day so you can ask questions and engage with him. Many parents complain that getting information out of their kids about the school day is nearly impossible. Throw out some specifics yourself and see what he comes back with.
9. Be Your Kid’s Advocate
Kindergarten is a melting pot of abilities and maturity levels. If your child is ahead of the other kids, respectfully talk with the teacher about how to challenge her more, both in the classroom and at home. If she seems a bit behind other kids, speak up! There are lots of extra things you can do to help your child grasp Kindergarten level concepts if she seems to be struggling.
Above all, remember, it’s Kindergarten. There’s a balance between all of the things above and keeping it all in perspective. Arm yourself with as much information as you can and watch your sweet baby explore this new exciting chapter of his life.
Sound off: Do you have a little one going into Kindergarten? Do you have any tips for parents with upcoming Kindergarteners? Give your questions and suggestions in the comments!