Tips for Sending your Children to Kindergarten

Part 1: Tips for Sending Your Baby Off to Kindergarten:

How to Make The First Days More Manageable

This article is the first of two articles intended to support moms sending their children to kindergarten. Next month, check back for Part 2: Tips For New Kindergarten Parents From Moms Who Have Been There. 

For some moms, it’s a future event that occupies a slowly growing corner of our mind from the time our babies are born and, although we’re a little sad to hand our babies off to strange teachers, we’ve known it’s coming. Maybe we’ve done this before with our older children so we know what to expect. Veterans. For other moms, it jumps out and surprises us from behind five years of blissful denial. No matter which camp you fall into, sending your child to kindergarten and preparing for the emotions, behaviors, expectations, schedules, and general life changes that come with having a school-aged child (and being a school-aged child) can be difficult. 

Here are some tips to help address the most commonly seen struggles of parents of new kindergarteners, provided by Katy Wogatzke, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate at Camel City Counseling in Cornelius:

1. How can I make goodbyes less painful each morning? 

       I always recommend keeping goodbyes short and sweet, and as consistent as possible. Kids thrive on routine and knowing what to expect. If your child is going to be a car rider every day, after the first couple of days of school you should pull through the car rider line and let your kiddo get out, just like everyone else. If your child is going to ride the bus this school year, after the first couple of days of school they should hop on the bus and start their bus rider routine for the year. The first couple of days are always a little wonky with staggered start days and times, but as soon as you’re able you should make mornings as consistent and predictable as you can for your kindergartener.
      A teacher friend of mine also suggests practicing separation before school starts. Don’t let the first day of school be the first time all summer that your child is separated from you. Leave your child with a trusted friend or family member while you run to the grocery store, or out for date night. Allow your child to recognize that although mom leaves, she comes back. 

2. How do I ease my child’s worries about starting kindergarten?

    First thing’s first: Attend to your own emotions about your child starting kindergarten. Make sure you have a safe, validating person to pour your feelings out to in private. It’s okay to be worried, scared, or sad to see your little take their first steps off into the big world without you. What you don’t want to do, however, is give your child the impression that he or she should be worried, scared or sad. Your child will look to you for emotional signals to determine how they should feel about starting school. When speaking to or in front of your child it’s important to remain positive and reassuring. If your child is scared or anxious, validate their feelings. “I hear you saying you’re scared about XYZ, and that’s okay!” Reassure your child that their teacher is there to help them, that there will be lots of friends at school, and that they get to come home to you at the end of every school day. Soon they’ll experience it for themselves and anxieties will dissipate. It’s important to address their anxiety, but not overly focus on it. Some anxiety is natural and okay! 

3. What are things I can work on with my child now to prepare them for kindergarten this fall? 

       I posed this question to a group of teacher friends and got some fantastic answers. The most common was: Teach your child to handle conflict with their peers, and teach them to handle being told no and manage disappointment. Take them to the pool, the park and to playdates and let them learn how to handle conflict with peers. Give them opportunities to learn that they may not always be chosen to help with things or lead, and that that’s okay. Social/emotional struggles often keep the class from moving forward academically because they force the teacher to stop instruction to manage child behaviors and conflicts. If you’re able to assist your child in developing this skills before they come to kindergarten, they’ll be set up for success!
      Interestingly, the number one piece of advice that my teacher friends shared with me was this: Prepare your child to eat lunch in 20 minutes. If they can open their own lunches, pudding, fruit cups, drinks, etc.,that will require them to wait less and give them more time to eat. Lunch time is often very rushed for kindergarten students who are used to eating leisurely at home. 


For families who are introducing their children to the school system for the first time, the start of kindergarten may be thrilling, perplexing, stressful, anxiety-inducing, and even frightening. But the chaos will pass quickly. The pattern will take hold. Expectations will be established, and consistency will endure. There will be friendship. There will be lessons learned, sometimes the hard way and other times the easy way. You aren’t alone in your feelings, though; that much is certain. Many other mothers are in the same situation as you. During the open house, get the phone number of the other mom who seems friendly. If you think you need help, reach out and make a connection. Have playdates, ask questions, and keep in mind that you’re all in this together

Katy Wogatzke
Katy is a licensed clinical mental health counselor at Camel City Counseling in Cornelius, working primarily with children and adolescents with some adults sprinkled in. She's worked in education and mental health for a decade, and finds the most joy in working with kids and teens who exhibit BIG emotional and physical energy whether that looks like impulsivity, hyperactivity, grief and sadness, anger, or any number of other issues impacting today's kids and teens. She’s passionate about providing young people with coping skills, resiliency tools, and helping them work their emotional muscles before they're in crisis instead of waiting until they're already struggling.


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