You've spent the summer calmly reassuring your nervous kindergartener-to-be about the approaching school year. Together, you attended orientation and shopped for back-to-school clothing. Your child is ready to see what this "elementary-school thing" is all about, but what about you? As a parent, what can you expect from your child's kindergarten experience?
From teaching him how to get dressed to toilet training and tying his own shoes, you have spent the last several years fostering your child's independence. Get ready to watch him leap forward in the proud world of "I can do it myself." There is just something about "being a kindergartner" that makes kids want to do more on their own. Encourage it! A child's self-esteem is linked with the knowledge that he can accomplish tasks independently.
Encountering a Bully
If it didn't already happen on the playground or during pre-school, expect that your child will meet his first bully at some point during this school year. Be aware that it will break your heart to see your child hurting and that you will have to control the claws that instinctively extend from your Mama bear paws. While most schools have "No Bully" programs and actively intervene in kids' conflicts, there is bound to be a mean girl or a rough boy who finds ways to bully beneath a teacher's radar. Before the school year begins, equip your child with specific strategies for handling bullies.
Losing a First Tooth
There's quite a bit of variation between children when it comes to losing their baby teeth, but chances are good that you can expect at least one visit from the Tooth Fairy during your child's kindergarten year. Do some research on the going rate for teeth in your child's class; see what you can do about dissuading that one "Fairy" in the neighborhood from giving out $20s for teeth! If you're really lucky, school picture day might even coincide with your child's new, toothless smile.
Maybe you've long-suspected that your child will need some extra assistance when it comes to learning to read. Perhaps your gut tells you that you've got a gifted son or daughter whose creativity needs to be nurtured. You can expect that in kindergarten, your child's individual learning needs will be identified and tended to. Plan to be an advocate for your child. Use school conference times and IEP meetings to voice your observations, concerns, thoughts, and requests and consider yourself a partner with school personnel in shaping your child's educational experiences. When kids' individual learning needs are met, they are most likely to develop a lifelong love of learning.
Signe Whitson is a national educator on bullying, crisis intervention, and child and adolescent mental health. She is the author of How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens and Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Cope with Bullying. For workshop inquiries or more information, please visit www.signewhitson.com, Follow her on Twitter @SigneWhitson and "Like" her on Facebook.