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How Do You Keep Calm When Your Kindergartner Starts School?

There's lots of talk about kids' separation anxiety on the first day of kindergarten, but what about parents? That can be a traumatic day for them, too. We want to hear your tips for orchestrating a happy send-off.

The first day of kindergarten is fast approaching. So it’s time to get ready for some anxious, tearful goodbyes. And we’re not talking about the kids, this time. Parents, we’re looking at you.

According to a Harvard University study, parents sending their kids off to kindergarten experience three main emotions: happiness, sadness and worry. The happiness comes from their children’s own excitement about starting school. The sadness stems from the realization that their little one is growing up and leaving the nest. And worry mostly stems from parents’ anxieties about their kids “social relationships and vulnerabilities.”

So how do you, as parents, handle the lead up to kindergarten and the big first day? Patch rounded up some advice, but we’d also love to hear from parents who had a successful send-off in years past and those of you embarking upon this milestone for the first time this year. Please add your thoughts to the comments section below.

Education magazine has this advice to keep parents calm:

Children will pick up on your slightest bit of anxiety and will wonder why you are concerned. It is incredibly important to prepare yourself, in addition to preparing your child. Practice what you will say to your child and how you will stay calm. If you feel like you are going to cry, do your best to hold it together until you are out of your child’s sight.

Do not hesitate when you leave. Be prepared for the fact that your child might cry and be upset, but have confidence that the teachers know how to handle the situation. The more you drag out the good-bye, the more painful it will be, and the longer it will take your child to get adjusted to leaving you. If you run back the minute your child starts to cry, you are teaching him that crying will prevent you from leaving, and he will do it every morning.

An article in ehow offers this guidance:

Get to know your child's school. Sending your child off to a new place can be scary. Alleviate your anxiety when you familiarize yourself with the kindergarten campus as well as the employees.

Contribute to the success of the campus. Most schools rely heavily on the support of parents to make their school year successful. Join the the P.T.A, help in the copy room, head a fund raising project, or serve as a parent tutor. Feel more connected to your child when he starts kindergarten by getting involved.

If you want to spend some time easing your child’s worries at the same time as your own,  here's a list of children's books about starting school that you can read with your child.

Angela Morrey August 13, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I've heard many moms follow the school bus. That's a good idea if you can do it. Thanks for the tips!
Robyn Ackerman August 13, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Great Article! My first child is starting Kindergarten this fall and I for sure feel all 3 of the emotions! I also work for North Shore Pediatric Therapy (www.NSPT4kids.com) and we created this E-Book on how to know when your child is ready for Kindergarten (It covers every milestone!) http://info.nspt4kids.com/kindergarten-e-book/
Emily Stone August 13, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mary Jo. It sounds like you've developed an excellent plan. Good luck next week!
Emily Stone August 13, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Thanks for sharing this free resource, Robin. I hope your first day is a success!
Erik Synnestvedt August 14, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Thank you for raising the topic Emily. As a School Director of pre-k through grade 8, I have seen everything from "crocodile tears and clinging-to-the-pant-leg", to "Bye mom! Don't let the door hit you on the way out!" Each child is hardwired a little differently and will respond to the first day of kindergarten uniquely, but there are a few things I would suggest. Visit the school before classes begin and get to know the teacher, preferably with your child. Your familiarity and comfort level with the person caring for your child plays a big part in your child's comfort level. Stay nearby on the first day or for a few days while your child is becoming familiar with the new routine. The teachers at our school are very comfortable with parent visitors at the beginning of the year (any time actually). Our kids usually let us know when they are ready to be on their own. Let it happen naturally. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep. Often the anxiety that you feel, and pass along to your child, comes from the unknown. Some days are great! But some days just aren't so good. Telling your child that “everything will be fine” can feel awkward because you just don’t know. Instead, focus on the promise that you will return. That is a promise that you can keep with confidence. Finally, trust your teacher. If the teacher is telling you that it's OK to leave, it's usually because the child is ready (but mom or dad isn’t quite yet). Enjoy!

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