My five-year-old daughter has cried every night at bedtime for the past week. After some investigation, it turns out she has a case of the kindergarten blues.
What are the kindergarten blues? They are a child’s fears and anxieties about starting kindergarten. Going to kindergarten is a huge transition for young children and impacts each differently. My older child has already been through kindergarten without any of these worries. However, my daughter is a completely different child. Luckily, I alleviated some of her fears and we have tear-free bedtimes lately. Here are some strategies to help your child overcome the kindergarten blues.
Really listen to your child.
The first night my daughter cried, my husband checked on her. When I asked him why she was crying, he said she made up some excuses and he didn’t really know. During my turn to calm my daughter, I talked to her about kindergarten in an attempt to alleviate her fears. She cried the next night anyway. I finally had to dig deep and have a very detailed conversation about what exactly she was nervous about. She stayed up way past her bedtime for that conversation, but I finally discovered that she was specifically nervous about not having any friends in her class.
Help your child meet some classmates.
Luckily, my local library had a kindergarten storytime to let new kindergarteners meet each other before the start of school. My daughter met a few classmates and one of them happened to be another little girl with similar interests. They bonded over baby doll talk. Thank goodness! That night, there were no more tears. If you can’t attend a specific program, use the Internet to your advantage. Post a request on your local Front Porch Forum or Facebook group to set up a play date with your little one’s classmates. Meeting at a local park is a great option. There is no pressure to invite strangers into your home and the children can play with each other without too much pressure or fighting over their favorite toys.
Visit the school.
I assumed that my daughter wouldn’t get the kindergarten blues because she has already been to visit the elementary school many times. She often came with me when I volunteered in her older brother’s class. She even has the same kindergarten teacher that he had. However, visiting her brother’s school with Mommy is quite different than going to her school all on her own. Luckily, most schools offer an orientation to help familiarize kids with the school. If your child is anxious like mine and needs more reassurance, visit the school playground. The playground is obviously fun, but it can be overwhelming on the first day of school when it is swarming with kids. If you visit before school starts, your child can have space to explore the playground calmly and have something specific to look forward to on the first day of school.
I loved playing school as a child. If there is a specific area that your child fears, role playing can be fun and also a good model for behavior. For example, if your child is worried about lunchtime, you can pack their school lunch box at home with exactly what you will send to school one day at home. If they are worried about buying a lunch at school, let them practice buying their own lunch at a restaurant. My kids really enjoyed buying their own treat from the ice cream truck. My daughter accompanied my son to his school library one day this summer and got to pick out a few books of her own to bring home and “read.” This made her feel so mature!
Read books about the kindergarten blues.
This is really helpful if your child is anxious about school in general or can’t express their specific concerns. Sometimes you get lucky and the book will express the fear and show a solution. Children can often identify with the kindergarten characters in the books. Even if none of the books alleviate fears about kindergarten, it will be useful practice listening to and eventually reading stories at school.
Offer endless support and reassurance.
Sometimes, the only solution to fears is to let your child face them and conquer them on her own. As a parent, you are your child’s safety anchor. I let my daughter know that I love her unconditionally and I will always be here to listen to any of her problems and support her decisions. Also, I talk about school in a positive manner, even though I am sad that my youngest child is now going off to kindergarten. I will miss having her at home with me. However, I know that she will be an awesome kindergartener and I tell her that frequently.