This is the longest two weeks of my entire life!" my daughter, Elisabeth, groaned last December while flopping onto the sofa. At age 4, she was experiencing her first winter break from school -- and she wasn't happy about it. She missed her teacher, her friends, her school routine. But the more she sighed, the more I celebrated. What better evidence that her first school experience was going well?
And now it's September. How can I ensure that Elisabeth's love of school stays with her as she adjusts to kindergarten, with a new classroom, teacher, and expectations? The key, say educators and parents who've been there, will be for me to stay involved in her school life, but not to focus on academics -- yet.
"There's a wide range of readiness among young children for reading, writing, and adding. These skills will come in time. Meanwhile, your job is to help your kids view school as a happy place to be," says Carissa Olivi, a former preschool teacher who's now on the board of education in Orange, NJ.
For some children, a positive attitude about school may require coaxing, since school presents a lot of new challenges -- being away from Mom, making new friends, taking turns. Here's how to help your child meet those challenges -- whether he's starting kindergarten, preschool, or a two-mornings-a-week nursery program.
Nana Silver is the author of Rules for Parents (Berkley Publishing Group).