That four-syllable word catches in my throat every time I say it. Part of me is thrilled for our son, as I know he’s ready to learn, to make friends, to have his tether extended just a bit beyond the four walls of our home. But the other part of me is scared of kids being mean to him, of him falling behind, of simply being away from the tiny human who lived inside of me for nine long months and has been in our house every day with me for five short years.
We know that day in mid-August is coming, so we’re doing a few things to prepare him— and us—for the inevitable.
How We’re Preparing Him
- Reading books: Since he graduated from pre-k in May, we’ve been reading books about going to kindergarten and/or school for the first time to prepare him for his first day. Some of our favorites include: The Night Before Kindergarten, Kindergarten, Here I Come!, The Berenstain Bears Go to School, and On the First Day of Kindergarten. Books have a wonderful way of expressing what we’re unable to and give us a special bonding time with him, too.
- Doing a school drive-by: Our elementary school is very close to home, so we’ll often make a quick pit stop there on our way to/from errands, preschool, or sometimes, just because. Having the visual of his new school is comforting to our son and allows him to have an image in his head of where he will be — taking the “scary” factor down just a notch.
- Talking about kindergarten positively: As much as the word “kindergarten” gives me a lump in my throat, we only talk about kindergarten in a positive manner, (e.g.: You’re going to have SO much fun in kindergarten!) The positivity shows our son it’s okay to be excited and allows him to rest assured knowing he doesn’t have to worry about Mommy when he goes to kindergarten.
- Involving him in our purchases: Anytime I make a purchase for school (backpack, lunchbox, clothes, school supply pack, etc.), I try to involve our son. I’ll ask him before I buy, and if he’s not around when I’m making the purchase, I’ll make a big deal about it when he is around. I’ll often say in an excited tone, “Look what Mommy and Daddy got you for kindergarten! This backpack is going to be so awesome to carry each day! It even has your name on it!” Involving him gets him excited about his special day.
- Working on certain life skills: Wiping his own bottom, working on tying his own shoes, ensuring he can fully dress and undress himself—all of these are skills we’ve worked hard to ensure he knows (or at least is very confident in trying) before he goes to kindergarten.
- Getting involved: The new-to-school meet-and-greet? Check! Meet the teacher? You bet! Back-to-school movie night? Sign us up. Yes, it’s a lot (trust me, I know it’s a lot!), but being involved is crucial for our son to meet people, feel comfortable around his new school, and be confident of his surroundings.
How We’re Preparing Ourselves
- Making peace with the inevitable: It’s coming, it’s happening, and he’s not going to stay a baby forever. I’ve been reciting that line to myself since I registered him for school in the spring. I do well if I pump myself with positive self-talk, and this is just one example of how I’ve made peace with that big day.
- Talking with other parents: Thankfully, our next-door neighbors have a child one year older than our son at the very same school. I’ve been able to chat with them about our new school, the teachers, and the kindergarten events. It’s comforting to me to have a bit of preparation and not walk in the door completely blind.
- Getting involved: Not only is it crucial to get our son involved, but it’s important for me to get involved, too! When I registered him in the spring, I asked the school’s secretary the best ways I could help. She responded that just being there as much as I was able to, helping make copies for the teachers and staff members, and becoming a part of the parent-teacher association (PTA) were all great ways to get involved. Each school, school district, and parent’s ability and availability may be different, but getting involved as you’re able is a great way to know what’s going on and to feel connected to your child’s school.
While I’m a mixed bag of emotions right now, I’m so thrilled for our son. We’re only at the beginning of our school journey, and I’ve been told it only goes faster as the school years go by. It seems like just yesterday I was giving him his first bites of table food, and now I’m ordering school supplies and a big backpack with his name on it. Kindergarten, here we come!
How are you preparing for kindergarten? Any tips from experienced mamas who’ve walked this kindergarten road before?