August means the last minute summer vacations, school supplies, readjusting to school-year schedules and for many families, a child leaving the familiarity of home or preschool to go to kindergarten. Kindergarten anxiety is common, even in children who usually seem social and well-adjusted.
For many children, going to kindergarten for the first time can be a scary and anxious time. These nerves may lead to a child acting out, having tantrums, not sleeping well, and having trouble adjusting to a new stage. 4-6 year olds starting kindergarten this year may not have the tools to process how they’re feeling, adjust to this new stage or explain their emotions, but as parents and caregivers, there are ways we can equip them to succeed and calm their fears.
1. Talk to your child.
Kindergarten anxiety can steam from not knowing what to expect or how to verbalize their emotions. Talking to your child about why they are nervous or anxious can help validate their feelings, verbalize their fears, and help answer any questions they may have. Are they afraid of taking the bus? Making new friends? Who their new teacher will be? By talking to your child, you can get to the root of their fears, and encourage and validate them.
2. Look after the basics.
Make sure your child is eating healthy snacks, spending time being active, and sticking to bed time for adequate sleep. Having this routine and time to adjust will make life more familiar and predictable as they look at an unknown situation.
3. Share your experiences.
Sharing your experiences lets your child know that they aren’t alone and validates their feelings and fears. Letting them know that it’s ok to feel nervous and sharing your strategies for similar feelings can help.
4. Focus on the positive aspects.
Remove the focus from kindergarten anxiety to the excitement of the future and growing up. Asking your child things like “What are you excited about?” “What do you think you’ll learn” or “What are some interesting things you think your teacher has planned?” can bring the positive aspects to life that your child may think of, but are overshadowed by repetitive worries.
5. Visit the new school and classroom.
Create a sense of familiarity for your child by visiting their school and classroom, or following their new bus route before hand. Many schools have “meet the teacher” opportunities before the school year starts so that your child can meet their teacher and their classmates and help ease anxiety.
6. Stay calm and pay attention to your own behavior.
Our children react to situations based on what we model for them. By staying upbeat and calm, you can assuage their fears and let your child know that while it’s ok to be nervous, you’re here to support them as they move on to a new stage of life.