Kindergarten can be scary for kids AND parents. Today I want to give parents seven tips that are fresh on my mind to help them not just survive Kindergarten but really thrive during that first year of school. Here is a parent’s kindergarten survival guide.
My daughter went to Kindergarten this fall, and for the very first time, I am a bystander and my control-freak self is having a very difficult time. My child has attended school for the past three years, however, this year was her REAL “first day of school.” When I walked our little girl to preschool each year, there were always reminiscent tears shed to see her so grown up… but then I was able to walk next door into my own classroom.
Being a teacher at her school myself, I watched her walk down the hall so proudly with her lunch box in hand, joined her on the playground during recess, and the most fun of all was having my own students to protect her and be her friend. They all played, hugged, and looked out for her, even if I was standing right there. Being Miss Bethany’s daughter was a special badge of honor my daughter had no idea she had. This year, however, I am not teaching at her school, and I feel blind as I walk my child into this new experience.
Now I join the ranks of weeping parents who sent their child off to school alone and want to know how they can stay relevant and involved. This is a new role in our child’s life, and we as parents are responsible to give our children our best when it comes to preparing them for their new adventure of attending school in Pre-K or Kindergarten.
A Parent’s Kindergarten Survival Guide
1. Be Your Child’s Advocate
Be FIERCE and ready to diplomatically fight for what is important for your child’s safety. Whether it is allergies, bathroom help, etc.., plan to meet with the school nurse, cafeteria staff, and teachers to advocate for a safe and healthy environment for your child. You know your child’s needs the best and must insist staff and teachers don’t see him or her as just a number. Do not let an administrator or secretary make you feel like you cannot express what is important for your precious child. The first time I walked into the school office to register my child for school, I had to repeat my requests for orientation information many times before anyone would take me seriously. The school is not a one size fits all system and you cannot expect anyone to go the extra mile for your child. Make them listen and do your homework to know the programs available at your school and in your district. If you start out the conversation well-informed, then they can’t brush you off.
2. Know the Expectations and Academic Standards
An important way to advocate for your child is to educate yourself on what is expected of your child at their school. Each teacher/administrator/school district is different, so either print the standards from the school website, or ask the teacher for a list of standards in each content area at the beginning of the year. This includes both academic and gross/fine motor skills (ex. holding a pencil correctly, lining up correctly) This will help you understand what is expected of your child and you can ask questions of the teacher/administrator before a problem arises. Educate yourself on what the school offers for extra services (ESOL, Advanced Academics, etc.).
3. Get Involved in Your Child’s Classroom Experience
From the very start, ask your child’s teacher how you can partner to help them be successful this year.Do not be the parent who only calls or emails when there is a problem. Let the teacher know when your child talks about something exciting in their class. Volunteer to do an art project, file papers, go on a field trip, or join the PTO. Whether you are a working or stay at home parent, you can volunteer and offer your skill set to your child’s teacher however that fits your life and schedule. Remember communication is a two-way street. My personal pet peeve as a teacher is parents who never sent back communication folders. These contain very important information and being on top of the homework/communication/permission slips is a MUST.
Back to School night is not just for meeting with the home room teacher; you need to meet the art, music, PE, and library teachers and ask the same questions about how to best help your child. I had an Art teacher almost fall over backwards she was so surprised I asked her what my child should practice at home to increase the skills she was learning in Art this year. Very rarely do specialists feel supported by parents at home. I guarantee they will love you for the gesture.
4. Pack Time-Saving Lunches and Snacks Your Child will Love
The time allotted for lunch is condensed more and more each year. When I go eat lunch with my child at school, it is terrible to see the amount of food that wasted simply because students do not have enough time to eat. To reduce the time crunch, make sure your child can easily open and eat everything you put in their lunch independently. Better yet, take food out of containers or buy in bulk to save time and be more environmentally sustainable. Those individual packs of raisins are awesome for snacks on the go, but for every day lunches, they are unnecessary and cost your child valuable eating time. Buy a lunchbox with many compartments for variety and ease. Make it more exciting with shapes or cups so they love opening their lunch box every day. Include reusable napkins and utensils as well if needed.
*Bonus points: write a quick love note on a post-it and stick it in that lunch bag as well.
Here are a few options for a hassle free and exciting lunch period your child will look forward to:
- Reusable Napkins
- Reusable Utensils
- Sandwich crust cutters
- Post-it notes
- Printed Lunchbox Love notes
5. Teach Them the Basics at Home
You REALLY can make your child’s teacher fall in love with you by teaching them a few basic tasks:
- to tie their shoes
- button and zip their clothes
- open food and drinks independently
- write their name
- blow their nose
- wash their hands
- pack their backpacks quickly
A Kindergarten teachers’ day is filled with small tasks for little people and all that extra time can be spent teaching your child to read and write if they are taught the basics at home. Think about tying both shoes or having to unbutton and re-button pants all day for 20 kids. The more basic skills you teach you child to do independently, the more time your child’s teacher has to maximize academic and social skills. For a great book on tying shoes, click HERE.
6. Be Aware of Emotions
Also, understand that they may come home and fall apart. I know countless parents who have said, “Wow, I am glad they are being polite with you because they come home with so much ATTITUDE.” Just like adults when we have a difficult day, we come home and bite off a loved one’s head. Home is a safe place to release the tension of the day. Allow your child to decompress just like you do after work or a long day. Start with a “welcome home” or “I am so glad to see you.” Let them EAT something before you bombard them with questions about their day or give them chores. The “hangry” struggle is real!
Young children can recharge their batteries with an activity they enjoy. My daughter loves to draw, read, or ride her bike when she gets home. If you let them have a little down time, they will be much more pleasant when asked to help with chores, go run errands, etc.
7. Keep the Questions to Yourself Until they are Ready
Lets face it, no one likes to be met at the door with 100 questions. It is important to not put children on your timeline. I ask my daughter when she gets in the car after school “do you want to tell me about your day or do you want to tell me later.” Ihave a LONG list of things I always want to ask, but I give her options. Choosing a time to talk between after school and bedtime gives them a few hour window. That quality time can be dinner time, bath time, or even before bed. This gives your child the opportunity to relax and they are more apt to give you the juicy details you desire. Be strategic about your questions. Never ask a question that can be answered “yes, no, or fine.”
If you need tips on questions to ask, click HERE for a great resource.
If you are a teary mess and they are an exhausted wreck the first few weeks, remember this too shall pass. Ease yourself and your child into the new routines. Ask your child what they enjoy most to help both of you see the wonderful side of this new adventure. Your child is going to grow leaps and bounds academically, socially, emotionally, and physically while attending school. You can enjoy this special time knowing they WILL be okay and YOU WILL SURVIVE!
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