Top Tips for Sending Your Child Off to Kindergarten

Top Tips for Sending Your Child Off to Kindergarten!

August is officially here--which means it's back-to-school time once again! For me, this means sending my oldest off to full-day kindergarten. And although she did pre-k last year, I've been really struggling with the thought of her starting school. In the past month, there have been many nights where I've put her to bed, and just cried at the thought of her being away from me all day long. And I'm not talking a few wistful tears, I'm talking full-on ugly sobs! 

I mean, she has always been my little best friend--the one who has spent more time with me in the last 5 years than anyone else. And although I know it will be so good for her, I will definitely struggle with the adjustment. And I KNOW it will be hard for my son as well. He LOVES his sister, so the thought of him without his best buddy all day makes the tears come even harder.

I've realized though, that not only is she SO ready for this, but I know it's an environment she will thrive in! Which is why I've spent lots of time talking to friends with older kiddos and researching strategies that will not only help my daughter adjust, by myself and son as well! That way, it can be a smooth transition for all of us!

So if you're in the same situation, here are some of the top tips I've received from friends and family (as well as a few things I've learned over the last few weeks) to help send kiddos off to their first day of kindergarten!

How To Make it Easier

For Mom/Dad:

If you're like me, the kindergarten transition may be hardest on you as the parent! Instead of focusing on the negative or sadness you may feel, which can cause your child to become unnecessarily worried, try doing some of the following as school begins!

  • Get involved with the class: One of the things my mom recommended to me was to get involved with my daughter's school and classroom. Most classrooms want at least a few parent volunteers that can come in and help with class parties or even just to help the teacher with little things, so reach out and find out if this is an option at your school. Not only is this a great way to get to know your teacher well, which can help you build trust in them that makes it easier to send your child to school each day, but it also gives you little chances throughout the school year to be close to your child and see them in action!

  • Learn about the school procedures before the first day: For me, being aware and educated on as much as I can helps me to not feel so stressed out. Especially in the past few years with increased school shootings, I've had a lot of anxiety about sending my daughter to public school. Learning about how my school handles these situations has given me some reassurance. I've also found it helpful to learn about other school procedures, like how lunch works and pick up/drop off. Knowing all you can ahead of the first day about all of these things can help bring you additional peace as your child heads off to school.

  • Go shopping together! This has been a huge help for both me AND my daughter! Going shopping for new school outfits for her, a new backpack, and a lunchbox has helped us both to feel excitement about this new phase of life.

  • Focus on the good: It can be so easy to focus on the negatives. For me, all I have been able to think about for weeks is the fact that she will be gone all day. When I switched my mindset and started thinking about all the good and fun things she will experience, I've become a lot more positive about the transition. It has also helped me to think back on my elementary school experience. I LOVED school, and remembering that has made me feel excitement that my daughter now gets to make those memories too!

  • Take pictures: Taking pictures of my kids, especially during big milestones, has always been important to me. Not only does it bring me joy to look back on those as they grow, but it's a great reminder to me that there's joy in EVERY stage our kids reach (even though it can be hard to watch them grow up so fast!)

  • Keep goodbyes short and sweet on the first day: This is one tip I've heard a lot from experienced school mommas! Making drop off quick by giving your child a big hug, kiss and wave, and then letting them run off to class can help make it easier on both you and your child. If you linger too long, you may be more likely to start crying in front of them, which can cause them to become upset and struggle to leave you. I can guarantee I will be crying that first day, but knowing my daughter, if I don't wait until she's out of sight, then I'm going to turn her excitement into sadness. Which is something I definitely don't want to do!

  • Talk to someone, and let yourself be sad: Remember, you are NOT alone. And you don't have to feel ridiculous or pathetic because you're upset about your child going to kindergarten! In the past few weeks, I've realized that it is extremely common for parents to feel some level of loss or sadness as school approaches and starts. This is because our kids are gaining a new level of independence, and they will soon be away from us for most of the day. For stay at home moms, this can be increasingly difficult, as we've been used to spending all day with our kids. Talking to someone about how you feel, whether it's your spouse, friend, or even a counselor, can help you realize you're not alone and that it's ok to be sad. This IS a huge milestone and will be a big change, so big emotions are okay. Just try not to let your child see you so upset or they may think school is something to fear and be more anxious about leaving.

  • Find time to do something YOU love: This can be a bit more difficult if you have younger kids at home, but I still feel like this is an important thing to do. Allowing yourself time alone to do things you love can help you reconnect with yourself and remind you that you do have an identity outside of parenthood, and that it's okay to let your kids grow up. 

  • Plan special one-on-one time together when they're home: Now that I'll have less time with my daughter, I know that prioritizing one-on-one time with her when she is home will be especially important for both of us. Spend some of that time doing things that you enjoy doing together, but also find time to talk about the day! Hearing about all the fun things they did each day can help you feel better about them being gone.

Child hugging mom before school

For Your Kindergartener:

I have loved that my daughter had the chance to attend pre-k at her elementary last year. Not only did it get her used to going to a big school, but it helped her learn all about schedules and what school would be like. As a result, she's already so excited for school. However, there have been a few moments where she's expressed to me her nervousness. We recently moved, so this year will be all new to her--from a new school, to full day instead of part time, she's starting to feel the nerves of being away from me. 

As we've been prepping the last few weeks, here are some things that I've found have helped restore her excitement and help her feel more ready to start! 

  • Read books about kindergarten: My kids have always loved books. So one of the first things I did was find books about kindergarten that my daughter could read with me. This not only has helped her know what to expect, but since reading is a comfort to her, it has helped her feel calm about the whole situation as well.

  • Talk about all the FUN they'll experience: There's truly nothing better than kindergarten! The focus is still on fun, so it's much less stressful of an environment than the older grades. Focusing on all the good things they'll get to do once they get there, and maybe even telling them about your kindergarten experience, can help them feel excitement for themselves.

  • Discuss anything they may be nervous about: It's okay for kids to be apprehensive or nervous about the unknown. But talking through these things can help ease some of that for them. Before the first day, ask them if they have any questions for you, or if they want to talk about any of their worries or concerns. 

  • Practice eating lunch at home: This is a big tip I got from other moms. At home, kids can take as long as they need to eat lunch. Once they head off to school though, it's a different picture. Some schools will have short lunches, so find out how long yours will last and have your child practice. It's also important that you don't pack anything that your child will need help opening, so have them practice opening containers and juice boxes independently before school starts. 

  • Shopping! Again, go shopping with your child! Not only will this help you, but it will definitely help your child feel more excited to go! My daughter wasn't sure about eating lunch at school until we went and picked out an Elsa lunch box. And now she can't wait! As school gets closer, we will also go out and shop for food that I can pack for her. Hopefully this will also help her feel more okay with eating lunch away from home.

  • Remind them that you'll be there to pick them up: When dropping off each day, remind them that you'll be back as soon as school is over. This can give them reassurance that they'll see you again soon, and that school is just a short time.

  • Practice going to bed and waking up at a good time: If your child likes to sleep in or stay up late at night, practice going to bed and waking up at a good time. Starting a few weeks before school even starts can help them get used to it and make the first day less of a shock.

  • Avoid talking about the things you'll be doing while they're away: Do your best not to talk about all the fun things you'll get to do while they're gone. This can make kids feel sad, like they're a burden when they're around you, or that they're missing out on something. So even if you're planning to do something exciting while they're at school (like taking your younger kiddos to the park or library), try not to talk about it too much. My daughter definitely experiences FOMO, so this is a big one for us!

  • ALWAYS offer plenty of hugs, kisses, and I love you's! It's going to be difficult to be away from each other, so give all the hugs and kisses you can. Remind your child that you miss them and love them, but that you're so glad they can go to school and have so much fun!

  • Attend any back-to-school or meet the teacher events: Getting to see the school and meet the teacher before the first day can truly be one of the BEST things. Once your child sees how kind the teachers are and how incredible the school is, all anxieties may fade away. They may also meet other classmates at these events. Making friends ahead of time will allow your child to feel calm when they see a familiar face on the first day! So don't skip ANY of the events or opportunities that the school puts on.

Children meeting new teacher

For younger siblings:

My two kiddos are BEST friends. They spend so much time together and love playing together. Just the last few days, my son hasn't wanted to take his naps because he just wants to play with his sister. Hearing and seeing how much they love each other makes me so proud and happy, but it's also causing me more heartache at the thought of sending her off to kindergarten all day. I know he is going to struggle as his built-in playmate is now going to be gone for a good chunk of the day. 

However, by starting to make a plan on how I can distract him and entertain him, I know he will be able to adjust. Although, it definitely will take him some time.

  • Talk about what's going to happen: As your older child's first day approaches, don't forget to talk with your youngest about what's going to happen so they know what to expect as well. Remind them that they'll get lots of time to play with you at home, and that their sibling will only be gone for a while! And as soon as they get home, they can play enjoy that playtime again!

  • Put off chores and find time to spend together: Although I always try to play with my kids as much as I can, I can get busy with cleaning, laundry, bills, and all the other things that need to get done on a daily basis. Up until this point, I could always have my kids play and entertain one another. Now that my oldest will be gone, though, I will need to be much more aware of how I'm spending my time. As a result, those tasks will need to be moved to his naptime. That way he can get all the time and attention he deserves reading books together, playing games, or doing other fun things (like those listed below!)

  • Plan outings: Having scheduled outings, like visits to the park or library, can be a great way to distract your younger kiddos from their older sibling being away. Some libraries offer weekly story times and craft days, so stay up-to-date on those and try to attend them when you can. Many libraries have social media accounts you can follow so you don't miss a thing.

  • Activities/craft time: For some reason, I've always struggled getting on the ground for imaginative play with my kids. It's just not something I really enjoy. But arts and crafts or other learning activities are much more up my alley. Implementing more of these throughout our day will be another great way to help my son enjoy his day until his sister gets home. One of my favorite places to go for fun ideas is the website Oh Hey Let's Play (instagram @ohheyletsplay). She has tons of fun activity ideas you can do with your toddlers, as well free printables and some awesome activity books you can purchase. I love her activity books because then you don't have to prep activities--you just pull out a book and you have countless re-useable activities your toddler or preschooler can enjoy!

  • Subscription boxes: There are so many AMAZING subscription boxes out there for kids. Not only are many of them great for teaching STEM skills, but they're fun and engaging for kids as well. With my daughter going off to school, I worry that he will feel like he's missing out on what she's doing at school. Which is why I'm going to try out a few fun subscription boxes for him. Not only will these give me no-prep activities for him to do (which is a HUGE plus when I get busy), but he will be learning at the same time. I personally really like the KiwiCo subscription boxes. We got the Koala kits for my daughter when she was younger, and she had so much fun with them. Not only does it make your child feel special when they get a package addressed to them in the mail, but it also gives them something to look forward to that they get to enjoy while their sibling is at school.

  • Sign them up for a sport/activity: There are tons of fun sports or activities that younger kids can be involved in. Find something your child will be interested in, and sign them up. Having something for them to do each week can be super helpful for them when their sibling is away. Lots of city rec centers offer low-cost classes for art or sports that they can enjoy any time of the year.

  • Involve them in pick up/drop off: Letting your younger child be involved with pick up and drop off can also be super helpful. When my daughter went to preschool, my son LOVED walking her up to the school gate with me and picking her up when she was done. When my husband would pick her up from school, my son loved standing and watching out the window for her to come home. I really believe that allowing him to be involved, even in such a small way, helped him cope. (And it was adorable for me to watch as a parent.)

Mom walking child to school

There is truly nothing more incredible and heartbreaking than being a parent. Although seeing our kids grow can bring us tremendous pride and joy, watching them gain greater independence can also cause a lot of grief. Just remember--your kids will ALWAYS need you, whether they're 2, 5 or 40. 

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1 comment

I decided to do some research to help my sister in selecting a kindergarten for her daughter because she has been considering enrolling her in one. It’s good that you talked about talking to your kid about the changes in school that they might be nervous about since this can help in easing the anxiety of it. I’ll absolutely let her know about this so she can keep it in mind while picking a kindergarten and preparing her kid. I appreciate you sharing!

Victoria Addington

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