As your child prepares to go out into the world as a kindergartner, there are two types of separation anxiety that you should be aware of: yours and your child’s. Although you might not think much about your own fear of separation, getting yourself in check is a good step towards helping your child with his or hers.
Just as parents often feel anxiety when their kids leave for college or the military, parents feel anxiety as their kids prepare to leave for kindergarten. If you have not had your child in day care or in preschool, this separation will be even more difficult. After all, little Johnny (or Janie) has been in your control since birth; you have been the one making sure that he or she doesn’t play with fire, put forks into sockets, or eat bugs. Now your baby is out of your control and you have to rely on someone else for his or her safety. It is a scary time.
However scary, it is also a normal step in child development. You want your child to grow to be independent and confident, and a big step towards these goals is sending them off to kindergarten. You can prepare yourself by getting to know the teacher, checking out the classroom, and getting to know some of the other parents. No matter how much anxiety you feel, you should not let on to your child.
Tell children that you are proud of them. Let them know that kindergarten is a fun place where they will learn lots of important things. When they ask you questions about the world, answer the questions, but tell them that they will learn much more once they start kindergarten.
It’s a good idea to ‘set the stage’ for success. A year before they start kindergarten you can start getting them ready. They can learn some of the skills they will need, like learning their phone number, tying their shoes, and writing their name. If you make these activities fun and exciting, the child will look forward to more learning activities. You can explain that these are things they will need to know once they start school.
Do some school shopping in the weeks before kindergarten starts. The child will be proud to own his or her own pencils and notebook. Buy them a little backpack to keep the stuff in. Even when the anxiety starts to set it, they will still be excited to show off their new things to their fellow classmates.
If possible, find some of your child’s classmates and introduce the children before class starts. It’s scary to go out into the big bad world on your own. It’s much more comforting to go in with a partner and a friend. If Mary meets Suzy and they get along, that’s great. You can remind Mary that “Suzy is going to be there” when she expresses fear or apprehension about being alone or lonely.
Do let your children talk about their fears. They might worry about things like using the bathroom, being picked on, finding the right bus, or mean teachers. Listen to their fears, and let them know what they can expect once they get to kindergarten. Let them know what they can expect out of you if all doesn’t go well. Having a battle plan will help reduce first day of school anxiety.
All children experience separation anxiety. It is just a part of development. However, the worst of the early childhood separation anxiety passes when the child is about 3 years old. By the age of five, children should be ready to take the next stage in growing up. As long as they feel prepared and know what to expect, and they know that you aren’t worried, they shouldn’t worry too much.
When preparing for the first day of school, try to always focus on the positive. Your child will develop much of his or her attitude towards starting school from interactions with you.