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Oct 09

Kindergarten transition made easier

Learning to walk and how to dress one’s self are big steps for a youngster, but entering kindergarten is one of the most pivotal times in a young child’s life. Kansas State University assistant professor of elementary education Lori Norton-Meier gives tips on how children, and their parents, can make the move to kindergarten a breeze.

Going to kindergarten is a big transition for kids because it is the start of a new experience in a new environment, she explains. “There is usually more focus on academics and more expectations upon entering kindergarten. Whether children were cared for at home or at day care, they have to adjust to a new way of doing things and different classroom structures, such as larger classes.”

Youngsters may be anxious about entering kindergarten because they do not know what to expect. “They have been told about kindergarten and may feel some of their parents’ tension and may be fearful of the unknown,” Norton-Meier indicates. Other concerns for students may be finding the bathrooms and where they will eat lunch, and wondering when they are going to learn how to read.

Norton-Meier also points out that kindergarten is a big transition for parents. It’s a time when parents realize how quickly their child is growing up and gaining more and more independence–and may bring up memories, both positive and negative, of when they were in school. “Parents know that kindergarten is the start of a journey for both their children and themselves and they just hope their child will adjust well and have a good experience in school.”

Although most children will enjoy school, others may not. “If your child begins acting differently and you notice changes in their behavior, this may be a sign of stress or unhappiness,” Norton-Meier says. “It is important to dig beyond the surface and find out what is making them unhappy so the problem can be addressed. The first parent-teacher conference is essential. It comes at a time when children have had a little time to settle in and get used to their new environment and routines. It gives the child, the parents, and the teacher an opportunity to talk together and find answers to any possible problems.”Moreover, parent-teacher conferences give parents a chance to see what their child is doing in the classroom and what he or she is learning about. Parents can use these meetings as a way to initiate conversation and communicate better with their youngster about their experiences at school.

She suggests the following to ease the transition:

* Be aware–read newsletters and communicate with teachers to know what your child is learning about.

* Be interested–ask specific questions, such as, “Can you tell me three things you did in school today?”

* Communication is key–talk with teachers at any time; you don’t have to wait until parent-teacher conferences to address concerns.

* Read books–there are various publications about kindergarten that can be shared with your child to ease fears and initiate conversation with them about their experiences.

“Kindergarten is set up to be this huge thing that often brings many expectations for children, making it so important for parents to take proactive steps in helping their children adjust to kindergarten and enjoy their new journey,” Norton-Meier concludes.

1 comment

  1. Jordan Jorgenson

    Thanks for your tips. I liked your suggestion to be specific when asking about school. After preschool my kids would love telling me about what they colored, drew, made, or read. I think asking specific questions will help keep them excited and let them know that I care. This also means it is important to be aware and know what programs/events are happening so I can show my support.

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