Helping Your Child Adjust To Kindergarten
Your five or six year old is going through a lot of changes at the beginning of kindergarten. There are brand new structures and routines for everyone in the family to learn. You may notice that your child needs a little more sleep than usual. Encourage your child to get plenty of sleep (9-10 hours) each night. Think of 8 p.m. as a target bedtime. Even if you work full time, try to avoid the urge to keep children up. It makes life harder for your child at school and you need personal time to wind down at night too. You might also want to help your child pick out clothes and pack his/her backpack at night; this will help to make the mornings less stressful. Making choices and organizing school items help promote independence too.
When a child first attends kindergarten, it’s normal for him/her to feel anxious about leaving you. Let your child take a picture of you to keep in his/her backpack or desk to look at when he/she is homesick. Separating from the parent at home to get on the bus or at the front door of school is often easier than separating from him/her in the hallway at school. Sometimes making sure your child gets on the bus with a favorite playmate or carpooling with that friend can make the daily transition from home to school easier.
Some young children may have trouble adjusting to the routine of kindergarten. If your child has difficulty following the rules during the school day, try to come up with realistic and meaningful consequences. You may want to talk to your child’s teacher or with me about starting a reward chart with stickers that will help your child work toward positive consequences such a playing a special game or picking a special dessert for dinner.
Help your child come up with one specific, concrete thing to work on instead of just saying, “Be good at school.” For example, you may want to concentrate on helping your child to remember to raise his/her hand when he/she wants to say something. Spend part of a weekend afternoon playing a game in which everyone raises his/her hand to talk. This type of behavioral rehearsal will help your child to learn this necessary skill.
Remember, children try to push the boundaries of the limits that you set because they want to know that they are safe with you. When you threaten a child (“You won’t be going trick or treating if you don’t do better in school”) and don’t follow through with that consequence, you are telling a child that he/she is not very important to you. If you need time to think of a consequence for an action, take it (“I am very angry with you right now and need to think about what to do. Please go to your room and I’ll come see you in a little while.”). Look upon discipline as a way to tell your child that you love him/her and that he/she is too important to you to let him/her misbehave.
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