There are so many tips out there on things parents should do to prepare their child to start school. But what parents really need to hear are the things NOT to do to their child. So here are five mistakes to avoid to help your child's kindergarten year start off right:
1. Focusing on the negative
You're excited for kindergarten, but they're not. You're ready for them to go, but they want to stay with you. When your child tells you that they don't want to leave you all day leading up to that first day of school, don't focus on the time you'll spend apart by trying to explain how fun school will be. Instead, focus on the activities you'll do together outside of school, like cooking a fun breakfast every Monday morning to start the week. Who doesn't like happy face pancakes? And when they ask you what you'll do while they're in school, don't tell them you'll be hosting a mommy Mimosa breakfast to celebrate. Better keep that one to yourself.
It's a parent's instinct to want to play the role of coach to their children. To rub their shoulders as they enter the ring and psyche them up for new experiences. We all imagine that we are Rocky's little old coach Mickey, who built him up before each fight. But the truth is, unlike Rocky, those actions freak out our soon-to-be kindergartners. They have never seen this world we speak of, and hearing us talk too much about it makes them feel like we are convincing them of its greatness. So don't get every book in the library about kindergarten, and don't talk every day about all the new things they'll learn. Play it cool and let them set the pace. They'll feel more comfortable not talking about it all the time, and you'll look a lot less crazy to them.
3. Hovering at drop-off
It will be completely normal if your child clings to you like a parasite when you pull up to school on that first day. Resist the urge to feed that parasite, they will just want more and more of your attention. Trust that the teacher has the skills and abilities to take care of your child's anxieties. When you talk about that first day of school, make sure you casually discuss, but don't focus on the fact, where you'll be dropping them off because you don't want it to be a surprise. And yes, it's horrible to leave a crying, needy child, but remember, kindergarten teachers deal with this every school year. They know how to get that student adjusted quickly. And also remember that Mimosa is waiting for you. You don't want to keep a good drink waiting.
4. Comparing with other kids
As parents, we look around often and doubt our abilities. We see our friend's child the same age reading, when ours can only spell her name. Or we see a little boy on the playground climb the monkey bars when ours can only bury his brother in the sand and then pretend he's invisible. Oh wait, is that just my kid that does that? Sorry, my bad.
But no matter what, we can't share those doubts with our child. We can't talk about what little Jerry does in reading or how great Angela climbs. We have to applaud our own child's successes. It doesn't matter if your child can read when he goes to kindergarten, he will learn. It doesn't matter if she can't tie her shoes, she will learn. Every child succeeds at his or her own pace. The hard part is looking only at them and not the surrounding classmates.
But know this, there's a parent probably looking at your child wishing their child could do the things yours can do. Be your kid's cheerleader, and you'll see the growth happening at the pace that works for him. They all get there in the end.
5. Asking the dreaded question
It's a child's reflex to answer "I don't know" to the question, "What did you do at school today?" It's the same reflex that parents have when our child comes out of the bathroom and we say, "Did you wash your hands?" It's just what we're trained to do. So avoid generic questions and opt for more specific ones like, "What game did you play at recess?" or "What made you laugh today?" One of our favorites at the dinner table is, "If you were on an island, what thing that you used today in school would you want to bring with you?" Brace yourself though, our daughter once answered that she'd bring a boy to go camping with to her deserted island.
And trust me, you'll definitely need that Mimosa at the end of the school year when you have to try to get through kindergarten graduation without crying.