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Which Kindergartener Did I Send to School?

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Parents of kindergarten-aged children are constantly in doubt. After spending 12 years teaching these little ones, I have concluded that there are three basic concerns that permeate a parent's mind as they cross into the giant threshold of elementary school. These concerns are as follows:

First, a parent worries that perhaps their child is too young. Should they have waited another year so their child could be more developmentally prepared? There are so many variables in this consideration that it is easy for the parents to become confused.

If a child is very verbal and knows how to listen as well, doesn't this mean he or she is ready? If a child is wiggly and doesn't know how to attend to a task, doesn't that mean he or she needs to spend another year in preschool? These are good questions, but they have complicated answers which I will address later in this blog.

Next the concern about making new friends comes into play. Will the child's emotional security be challenged if friends are not made instantly in the new class? Is there a window of time to allow this to happen without worrying that they will begin school with the stigma of being the "odd ball out?" Would this follow the child throughout the 13 years ahead? Again, these are valid points which will be answered later in this blog.

Lastly, will the teacher like my child and see how exceptional and sensitive he or she is? If a teacher has up to 30 children at a time with whom to interact, how will my child get enough attention? How do I approach the teacher to make sure she knows my child right away? What do I do if my child does not bond with the teacher? Certainly these are possibilities, but not necessarily probabilities.

Let me start at the beginning while you take a deep breath. Children need to be ready cognitively, socially and emotionally. Just as there are many different kinds of people in the world, so are there many levels of development that a child exhibits when coming to kindergarten. Kindergarten is a magical time in which children begin to discover that they can function as individuals. A child who is ready for school, arrives with curiosity to learn mixed with anticipation of what lies ahead. It is the teacher's role to accept the child wherever he or she is, and to work with the parents to set goals for the child. It is my belief that a child has an easier time when he or she is on the older side of five, because each day during their fifth year they are developing a better understanding of what is expected of them

When a child is empowered to be relatively independent at the age of five, it is much easier for him or her to establish relationships with other children. If a child is shy, this is the time they can learn how to identify clues from other children with whom they can connect. I remember my oldest child in kindergarten. He would come home with a new "best friend" almost every day. Each time I heard a name, I rushed to schedule a play date with that child, only to find that by the next day or week there was someone new who held a special place in his social world. No one had informed me that five year olds can be very fickle! They try on different "hats" to find out which one "fits the best."

Teachers generally teach because they love being around young people. We always hope this is the case, because we all want to be liked by those around us, especially our teachers. If a child feels safe, he or she will like the teacher. Feeling safe means to a young child that there is someone nearby who they can trust to have their best interests at heart. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for the teacher to really grow to know a little one, but rest assured, this will happen. Keep the dialogue open with the teacher, and you will see that worrying about your child being liked is more about you than anyone else.

Enjoy this new passage with your child! The time goes by so quickly. Make sure you think about all that you have to look forward to... and you will all survive and be well!