If you’re anything like me sending your child off to kindergarten involved a wide range of emotions. Scared for your little baby heading out into the world. Anxious of how they will handle the adjustment into a new routine, new kids and a new school. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, maybe you’re sad to see your partner in crime headed out of the door on their own adventure, none of which you have control over.
And then the day comes. I remember standing there, watching the bus drive down River Road and then walked back to my house bawling like Ben Stiller on Something About Mary. I couldn’t believe that my little baby was all grown up and headed off to kindergarten. I thought that was going to be the hardest part of our journey….boy was I wrong!
The first, what seemed like forever, weeks of school were the hardest! Some days I wondered if someone at school had pulled a Parent Trap and a 3-year-old was stuck in my 5-year-old’s body. Kaden would get off the bus, have a snack, then crumple into an emotional mess. The biggest temper tantrums I had seen since he was 2 years old! I was at a loss of what to do. So I reached out to my colleagues, friends, blog posts and basically any kind of information I could get my hands on to try and help my poor little guy with his meltdowns. Here’s a few tips that found worked for me.
Sleep. Kaden would go to bed, I mean PASSED OUT, at 7 pm every night. So emotionally exhausted. He would make it through one chapter of our book and I would look over and he would be sound asleep. According to the CDC, kids need anywhere between 9 and 13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Consistent bedtimes AND wake up times, yes, even on the weekends, will help your child to get a healthy night’s sleep.
Bedtime. Reading books or just talking about the day’s events is a great way to slow your child’s brain and send them off into a restful sleep for the night.
Patience. I spoke to one of our therapists here at the clinic and she explained to me that young kids, particularly kindergartners, work incredibly hard to manage their emotions. Before school, Kaden’s days were filled with lots of outside play, activities that required short amounts of sitting, and naps. The expectations of keeping themselves in check all day is overwhelming. So. Much. Structure. Allow them a little more space to follow the rules at home because they have a whole new set of rules to learn and follow in a space that is TOTALLY unfamiliar to them.
Talk. Even if they only answer in one word responses it helps them to process the day’s emotions. The first couple of weeks Kaden was tight-lipped about his days and then after one VERY emotional breakdown, we found out he was getting picked on while riding the bus to school. It broke my heart to have him lie in my arms sobbing about the bigger kids picking on him and his little classmate. But, these teaching moments are so important in trying to navigate the world, and realizing that the bad moments are JUST as important as the good ones.
I hope this helps navigating your first few weeks of school a little easier. As I head into Kaden’s 1st grade year, I can only hope that the road is filled with less, or at least smaller, bumps in the road.