Entering kindergarten is a very exciting time in a child’s life. This meaningful stage is filled with possibility for kids—making new friends, forging new adventures, and a sense that they are growing up and taking the first real step in their academic lives. Starting kindergarten can also be filled with emotions for parents.
First words, first steps, first tooth, first day of school are proud, exciting and unforgettable moments. When a child starts kindergarten, parents may be filled with happy and excited feelings along with scared and nervous feelings. This is called, ‘mixed feelings.’ When parents use simple communication tools to manage their own emotions, they stay connected with their child. As a result, a family can move more easily through emotional transitions. Here are some simple tips to help parents navigate this emotional milestone and ease the transition to kindergarten.
Staying Connected. Avoid cell phones or deep conversations with other grown-ups at pick-up and drop-off. You can still send friendly signals to other parents such as smiling and making eye contact, but little ones need your full attention—this is the most important time for your child and you to connect.
Communicating from the Heart. Saying good-bye can be emotional for both parent and child. (It’s often harder for the parent!) Talk about and practice how you will say goodbye. Use the Kimochis Nesting Heart to help ease the separation. Your child can take the inner Heart to school (clipped to a belt loop or backpack) and you can keep the outer heart at home. Create a playful ritual for separating the hearts at drop-off and putting your hearts back together at pick-up. Reassure your child (and yourself!) that the Nesting Heart keeps you connected even when you are apart.
Listening to Upset Feelings. When your child is feeling upset, you will likely feel upset too! Practice acknowledging, rather than rushing your child through challenging emotions. Instead, make a compassionate noise and keep the conversation in your child’s court.
“Ahhh…tell me more about why you feel sad.” (Listen.)
“Can you think of anything you can do to make your sad feelings a little smaller?” (Listen.)
If your child does not have any ideas, you can lovingly say, “Would you like to know what some kids do to make their sad feelings better?” Share some ideas such as: asking for a hug, snuggling with a lovey, talking to mommy or daddy.
Practicing Before the Big Day. Go to the school and play “let’s pretend it’s a school day.” Just being on the grounds will make you both feel more comfortable as you get the lay of the land—creating a fun, positive, safe connection to school.
Managing Your Own Mixed Feelings. When your child goes through a tricky transition phase, think of a prior phase that your child has already moved through to remind yourself that this too shall pass! To help calm your own mixed feelings, take a moment to look at the big picture by using the 5/5/5 tool. Ask yourself, “Is it possible that my child will still be having this issue in 5 days? 5 months? 5 years?”