P.N. asks from Lebanon, OH on August 25, 2009
My 6-year-old is terrified of kindergarten, and I need advice on how to help him. He is normally fearless and outgoing. Since he already attended preschool for 2 years, I assumed he'd adjust fine to going to kindergarten. The first hint of a problem was that any mention of kindergarten this summer has resulted in tears because of how much he'll miss his preschool teachers. His preschool and kindergarten are in the same building, so we've reassured him that he can still visit them. Since he's a big boy now, he has to go to kindergarten. Last month, he had an evaluation (KRA-L) at the school. He was great! Last week, there was an ice-cream social at the school. My son didn't seem particularly interested, but he wasn't afraid and he didn't cry about his preschool teachers. He was just very disappointed that his best friend has a different teacher. Still, we tried to cheer him up that he might still ride the bus with his friend, play with him at recess, or just see him on weekends.
Well, today it was time to meet his teacher. He was fine until we reached the classroom door. Then, he started crying and said he was too scared to go inside. Promising to hold his hand, I got him inside. But, he literally clung to me the entire time. He hid behind me, and refused to speak - or even look at - his teacher! To avoid traumatizing him, we left early. I've tried to talk to him, but he just keeps saying his afraid of her. He's not brave enough to go to kindergarten.
The teacher said it happens every school year, and that he would be fine in a few weeks. But, I've never seen him this and it worries me. Besides continuing to repeat that he'll be fine, he's ready for kindergarten, and he is brave enough, I simply don't know what to do. Is that enough? Any suggestions to make it less scary for him?
So What Happened?™
Thanks for all the great advice! We visited his preschool teachers, and they hugged him and said they missed him. They promised to see him whenever they could. We talked to my son about his fears and read him several books about other kids frightened of kindergarten. Yesterday, he started school, and he was absolutely fine. In fact, he ran to get on the bus! When he got off the bus, he said it was "the best first day ever"! Thanks!!
C.N. answers from Muncie on August 26, 2009
Have you read "the kissing hand" book? Maybe if he could take a part of you with him, like your kiss, it would help. A part of you would be with him all through the day. I wonder why he is afraid of his teacher, has he heard stories of mean teachers? Share with him how much "she" wants him to be in her class, have valuable he is to her, how she wants to teach him new things . . .
K.B. answers from Cincinnati on August 25, 2009
My son is the same way about just about everything actually. It's very trying at times and it breaks your heart but you are doing a great job. Find some books about the first day jitters/worries. Let him know that it is actually ok to be scared and worried about changes and that everyone gets that way sometimes, EVEN the teacher. This year we wrote a note to the teacher about my son to "introduce" himself and asked her to do the same back so we could talk about it here at home. (We are 6 and in first grade this year). Kindergarten was very scary and then he LOVED riding the bus and eating in the cafeteria. It takes time to adjust but I'm sure he'll be ok. Hang in there. It gets better!
J.L. answers from Cleveland on August 27, 2009
I agree with the other suggestions and have another thought as well.
How about getting his preschool teachers involved? He is obviously very comfortable with them. maybe they could come with him to talk to his new teacher or tell him all about it. They could take him on a tour of his new room and talk about what his day will be like. This way, it is not you, but someone whom he knows well and trusts. Of course this would have to be before school or after school and handled delicately with the K teacher. I think if they help transition him, he will make the connection between fun in preschool and fun in K.
K. answers from Dayton on September 01, 2009
My daughter was afraid to start too. She was a little shy and had been at daycare/preschool for three years and loved all of her teachers. Kindergarten is a big jump for a little person because it's the start of regular school when you're supposed to learn and be grown up. It doesn't have the freedom and youthfullness of preschool.
One thing that helped my daughter and that your son may benefit from is to acknowledge his fear. "I understand you're scared, and that's alright. We all feel scared sometimes and you're starting a big school year this year. I'll be here after each school day and we'll tackle it together." I think it would be like a hug for him if he knows it's normal to be nervous about new experiences, but you'll be there for him. It really helped my daughter and it didn't take her long to start enjoying kindergarten instead of being afraid to go. And please let us know how he does. :D