Kindergarten is a huge change in the life of most children. Even those who have gone to preschool will find the demands and new environment of kindergarten a bit overwhelming at times. If you have an anxious child, this transition can seem insurmountable. The good news is there are several techniques and strategies you can use to ensure the transition evokes as little anxiety as possible.
Use Play Therapy to Assess Anxiety Levels
Grab some dolls and play “going to kindergarten” with your child. Play therapy allows children to express their feelings in a safer environment, where they don’t feel pressured to live up to their parent’s expectations. Try to see what your child is feeling through play.
Visit the School
The unknown is scary. If you can, visit the school and meet the teacher before the first day. A familiar or at least known environment is less frightening than one that’s completely unknown. The more exposure and details about what it will be like, the better. Visiting the school will also help you observe your child in the actual environment so you can make a better evaluation of his readiness.
Empathize With Your Anxious Child
It may seem counterproductive to give any acknowledgement to your child’s feelings, but it’s not. Acknowledge your child’s fear, and let them know that you were frightened on your first day of kindergarten too. Empathy will help your child realize that you love and care for them, and surprisingly it can limit the anxiety significantly.
Prepare for an Anxiety Increase
Your child may have some separation anxiety or worry over the unknown. When you face anxiety it initially increases. If you are ready and you encourage your child to “ride it out” it will go down. You need to be ready and treat the anxiety as normal and not be reactive. It may take a few weeks of rough starts so be prepared to keep going once you start. Anxiety is not harmful. You won’t hurt your child by teaching your child to tolerate anxiety. Whatever triggers the anxiety: repeat, repeat, repeat. It will get easier.
Don’t Be Afraid to Delay
While you can’t keep your child out of kindergarten forever, some kids aren’t quite ready at age 5, especially if their birthday is close to the start of school. Consider delaying the start of kindergarten if you feel your child just isn’t ready. Another year of maturing will make a huge difference in your child’s readiness.
If you believe that your kindergartener is, in fact, ready for school, but anxiety is getting in the way, consider the Turnaround Program. The Turnaround Program is a proven system to help turn around anxiety and help children learn to move past it. Using the program with your child prior to the start of school will give you a great first day and a great year.