A year ago today, my first baby, Amalia, started Kindergarten. I was so worried about my tiny little girl getting on that big yellow bus but, as you can see in the photo above, she hopped on with her friends and never looked back. At that moment I thought we were good to go, but boy was I wrong! Day one went great, week one went great. She loved her teacher, loved meeting new friends, and loved the new routine.
But after a few weeks passed, we started seeing signs of anxiety and fear at home. And they were… intense. To protect her privacy we’ve decided to keep the details private but I will tell you that it was uncharted territory for us as parents and watching her go through it was not easy.
At school, she was a dream. We got reports from her teacher that she was thriving, listening, and learning well. I believe her words were that she was “a delight” to have in class. Anel and I were shocked because she was the opposite of a delight at home.
After talking to teachers and moms all over the country, I learned that this is not uncommon. Going to “real” school is a big change, even if your kid is in daycare or preschool. Every child responds to change differently, so take or leave my advice, but here are a few tips that I wish I had known before we started Kindergarten.
1. Establish a consistent morning routine: We had a great daycare routine down but the bus schedule changed our timeline and therefor the entire routine. We got into a good groove after a few weeks but this could have started earlier. I recommend packing snacks/lunches the night before and pack up your kid’s backpack before they wake up if possible. We also always pick out outfits before bed so it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning. This might sound insane to do so much night-prep but I’ve found that it alleviates a lot of stress before getting out the door.
Our morning routine consists of waking up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, a few minutes of playing, then out the door. When we prep things at night, I don’t have to run around like a madwoman packing food and backpacks for both kids.
2. Spend extra time at the end of the day: For the first few days, if it’s possible with work schedules, try to have at least one parent spend some extra one-on-one time with your kid. Ask about school, do an activity, make them feel supported and loved in any way you can.
3. Read The Invisible String: The Invisible String is a beautiful children’s book about how we are all connected by love, even when we aren’t physically together. On mornings when Amalia was feeling sad to leave me, I would remind her that our invisible string is always connected. You can also get a necklace, bracelet, or small toy that can be a reminder of the string. Amalia had a necklace and I told her that if she touched it, I would feel her string and send mine back to her. This helped us a lot!
4. Set up playdates: Cultivating friendships outside of the classroom is great for many reasons but it seemed to help Amalia because she would get so excited to see the playdate friend the next day at school. It is also nice to mix home and school life so they feel more connected.
5. Visit the school: We visited her school’s playground before the first day of school to get her excited to play there at recess. During the first weeks of Kindergarten, we would go on the weekends as well to have her show us where she played the week before. I loved seeing her get excited to show us what she was up to during the day.
6. Give it time: Adjusting to any change takes time. When we were “in it” we felt like it would never end, but it did. Some kids take a few days, some take a few weeks, and in our case it took a few months. But once we got into that groove, it was amazing!