How did we get here so quickly? It seems just yesterday, my baby started preschool, and I applauded his first friendships, first words, first games. Now, he’s going to the big world of elementary school. Maybe, it doesn’t seem so big a deal to parents of grown kids. After all, kindergarten isn’t college or even high school. Yet, what transition, short of college, is such a major change for children and parents alike?
For those of you with more than a week to spare, this week’s Aha Parenting! e-newsletter published great tips on preparing for kindergarten readiness here. But for those of us with less than a week to go before school starts, what can we do? What should we do before the first day of school?
- Breathe. Be confident. Your child will take a lot of his attitude from you. If you are happy about the new school, so will he be. Excitement is contagious. When I cheered up and down upon our school assignment letter, my son immediately cheered with me. Push any nervous thoughts away, lest your child become nervous as well.
- Visit the school during teacher prep week and ask for your child’s teacher assignment. Many schools have orientations for new students. If yours doesn’t, ask when you can drop by. Maybe they have a day when families help the teachers prepare their classrooms; if not, ask the teacher what you can do to help. Even if your budget is modest, you could order some inexpensive supplies.
- Register for After Care, if you need it. Be sure to read the package for any specific rules or forms the program requires. Many programs offer financial aid, if you qualify, and offer enrichment activities.
- Assess her backpack and lunchbox. In our area, the backpack must fit a folder, which makes most preschool backpacks too small. Check for rips and zipper functioning.
- Check for any school rules. Many schools have rules about characters (especially drug or gang related), junk food and nuts. Some don’t allow hats or shoes with wheels. Don’t be taken by surprise.
- Label everything including spare clothing. Yes, even in elementary school, your child will lose things and drop paint all over his clothing.
- Practice independence. Most kindergarten teachers expect their children to use the bathroom independently, including wiping.
- Complete your forms, including medical forms with your physician (which may require you to catch up on your vaccines) and contact forms.
- Share information on your child’s medical conditions. Don’t just write a small note. Conference with the teacher so she can prepare. If your child has medication, most schools require you complete paperwork and follow a process. If your child has a food allergy, be sure to discuss it with the teacher in addition to providing your written Allergy Action Plan and any medications like Epipens. (The article Strategies for When Your Child Has a Serious Food Allergy has more information.)
- Ask for an IEP assessment, if you think your child needs special education resources. Be a mama bear if you feel the school isn’t assessing your child’s special needs. (Check out the article I Just Found Out Something Is Wrong with My Child, Now What?)
- Communicate how child is getting home. Most schools will require paperwork if you expect your child to attend aftercare or ride the bus, and will make you come get your child in absence of the forms. If the school has multiple buses, write the bus number down and, if possible, have your child memorize it.
- Join the PTA and consider volunteering. Your child will be in this school for at least six years, longer if K-8 or if you have siblings. If you work full time, you could volunteer for projects that take place on the weekend or can be completed from home. What better way to join the community and make friends than volunteering? Teachers love when parents volunteer to cut things out, put projects together or if possible be a mentor. If you have time, offer to come to the class and read to the children.
What are your tips for starting kindergarten?