Across the country, millions of families are shopping for backpacks, meeting with teachers, registering for sports, and anticipating the start of a new school year. For many families, this will be the first time sending a little one to kindergarten to begin their educational adventure.
Stepping into a new place, engaging in a new routine, and meeting new people is scary- especially for a young child. As a parent, you may be experiencing anxiety about sending your kid to school for the first time. How can you get them excited and ready for the first day instead of increasing their anxiety? Here are some practical ways to help you prepare your child, and yourself, for the first day of kindergarten.
Help set expectations
Spend some time leading up to the first day discussing what they can expect. Explain that they will be in a classroom with their own seat, and show them pictures of what different classrooms may look like.
Show them a picture of their teacher (often found on the school website) and practice saying their name. Many schools have a "meet-the-teacher night," so take advantage of that if you have the opportunity! Let them know that they can ask their teacher for help with anything and that the people in their school are there to help them and keep them safe.
Drive them to the school before the first day, so they know what the building looks like and how they will get in and out of the car or meet the bus for pick up and drop off.
Practice getting ready for school: get dressed, brush teeth, pack lunch, and eat breakfast. Make it a challenge and time how fast they get ready!
Share positive stories from your own school experience. Tell them what you enjoyed most about kindergarten!
The Night Before Kindergarten is a great book that addresses worries about leaving mom and dad, then highlights how fun and exciting kindergarten is.
Give them a safe space to ask questions and share feelings
Your kindergartener may have many questions leading up to the first day of school. Be patient in answering those questions and validate their concerns. Help them identify their specific worries. Assure them that you love them and will return for them every day. If they're extra nervous, give them a bracelet to wear that signifies you're thinking about them throughout the day.
Let them know that God created us to have feelings, and we can trust him even when we are scared or worried. Remind them that God can help them be brave. Teach them a small prayer to say throughout the day if they start to feel nervous:
Dear God. Thank you that I get to be here at school. Please help me to be brave. Thank you for protecting me. Amen.
Process as a family
It's okay to feel nervous as a parent sending your child off to kindergarten. You are not alone! Take time as a family to pray together for the days leading up to school. If you make prayer a habit in your family, it demonstrates that your child can go to God when they are scared. Here is an example of a prayer you can say together:
Dear God. Thank you for loving us even when we are nervous. Please help (your child's name) to be brave as they start kindergarten. Please remind them they are safe and can ask their teacher for anything. Thank you that (your child's name) will get to learn so many amazing things this year. Thank you for protecting us and always loving us. Amen.
The first day
On the first day, assure your child you'll be back for them, but don't linger. Smile and keep it positive- let your child know how proud you are of them and how excited you are to hear about their day. Save your tears for the drive away from the school! Your child won't be the only one experiencing separation anxiety, so if you make a quick exit, it will show your child that you trust that their teachers will take care of them. Experienced teachers will know how to redirect your child and get them involved in a fun activity to distract them.
Your child will eventually adjust to their new environment. It may take a few days or even a few months, but before you know it, your child will love going to school, seeing their friends, and learning new things every day.
For more resources on supporting your kids throughout the school year, check out:
How to Help Your Kids Overcome Fear4 Things Kids Need to Hear About Who They Are
LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ, and we're one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania with a mission to introduce people to Jesus and together fully follow him. Check out our environments for kids Ages 6 weeks-Grade 4.