How Can I Help My Daughter with the Transition to Kindergarten? Advice, Please!

Updated on July 31, 2011
A.M. asks from Frederick, MD
15 answers

My five year old has been in an excellent pre-school since she was eighteen months old. Well, the time for her to go to "big kid" school as she calls it is rapidly approaching.

A few days ago when I went to pick her up from her Pre-K/summer camp, she threw the biggest tantrum that she has ever thrown in her entire life--no exaggerating. She was beside herself and had a complete meltdown. It took me about twenty minutes to get her in the car and she screamed, cried and kicked for our entire commute. I was alarmed because I'd never seen her so upset.

Once I got her home, I could see that she was exhausted and told her to go lay down in her room and that we'd talk later. After she settled down, she said that she didn't want to leave her Pre-K class, she didn't like that her friends were leaving "and not coming back" (kids are going on vacation, moving, etc.) and that she wants to be the last person picked up every day. I think she's got kindergarten jitters.

She participated in Pre-K graduation and her teacher, my husband and I have discussed kindergarten with her and the fact that she'll going to a new school. (We don't do it constantly.) I know she's anxious and that it's completely understandable. In an attempt to help her prepare for the change I've taken her shopping for school supplies (which she helped pick out), taken her over to her new school to visit, slipped some positive "going to kindergarten" books into our reading rotation and answered every question she's had about school to the best of my ability.

I'm sure there are other many parents out there that have gone through the same thing. Can anyone offer any suggestions as to anything else I can do to help my daughter make the transition?

Thanks in advance!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

There is a picnic planned before school starts so we'll definitely be in attendance!

Luckily for us, we were able to have her visit the school three times while it was still in session and she got to shadow with the kids that will be her classmates in the fall. We've also been to a welcome event.

A few of the parents from her current school have exchanged contact information and we're hoping to get our kids together periodically. To the best of my knowledge, only two of them will be going to the same school in the fall so the children will truly be going in different directions. (Incidentally, I heard from another mother who said that her son has started acting out big time and she also attributes it to the upcoming change.)

What I have to do is be mindful of MY anxiety and do my best not to project it onto my child.

Thanks so much for all of the advice and encouragement, Moms!

Side note to Molly: I will be taking the day off for her first day at school and I'll be armed with a purse full of tissues. I'll try not to hide in the bushes outside of her classroom window but the idea is tempting. : )

Featured Answers


answers from Toledo on

My DD was this way also. new school, new friends, new teachers, new building....not one friend from her PS went to her K class with her ;-(

I would take her to the new school and show her around, and meet the teacher if possible. What I did for my DD is arranged a meet and greet at a local park where families that had their kids going to the same kindergarten class packed a picnic and we all met there to play and eat. About 6 families did show up and it was nice, although she didn’t really click with any kid at the park at least their faces were familiar to her come the first day of school.

More Answers



answers from Madison on

My daughter is starting kindergarten this fall. One of the parents got a list of the kids in the class and has organized a playdate for all of the kids at a park a couple of weeks before school starts. That way the kids can meet and get to know each other a little. Would it be possible for you to get a class list and set something up like this? It might be helpful for your daughter. Then when she has her first day of school there will be some familiar faces.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

A couple of things. First, it really does sound like you're doing a lot of great things already. Unfortunately, this may be one of those things that you just have to wait and let her start Kindergarten and find out that she'll be just fine. Chances are, she'll be nervous, anxious, etc. until the first day no matter what you do. But everything you're already doing should help to ease things a little and equip her to deal with it better.

Also, I think someone else shared a similar idea, but some of the moms in our neighborhood arranged a gathering at our community pool (open to anyone with a child entering Kindergarten, even if they're not pool members). Just to give all the kids a chance to meet each other and recognize each other so on the first day they'll already have some familiar faces. I thought it was a great idea, so I'm taking my daughter to the gathering since she'll be starting Kindergarten in the fall!



answers from Washington DC on

Write up a little note asking her friends parents to provide you with phone #s, email, etc. so that you can set up play dates once school starts.

You could also ask what school each child is going to for K. Its possible that she will have a friend in her class.




answers from Daytona Beach on

my son doesnt' want to go to kindergarden either. i took him with me when i had to turn in some paperwork, and when he saw the school, he asked if he could start that day. most schools have a meet the teacher. my school zone has switched all the schools up this year, so my eldest is having to switch schools, and my kindergardner will be starting the new school also when he's been used to going to the other school to drop off his sister for 2 years. he was nervous about starting the new one. the new school is having a new family orientation. maybe you can call the school and see if your child can go and walk around? ease her fears a little and let her see the new school and talk to her about how wonderful it will be?


answers from Detroit on

Is she going to full day Kindergarten? Because thats tough! Everyone made fun of me, but I have having my daughter go to bed at 7pm at night, if I didnt she would have meltdowns in the morning! I suggest a week before school starts, get her to bed at her school time to get her used to it.
She WILL do fine, I promise. Within a week she will have it down like a pro. But I cant say no much for myself. The day I dropped her off for the first time, her little life flashed before my eyes and I lost it. Walking away from her after being insepreable for 5 years KILLED me! After I left I think I was hyperventilating for a good two hours. I hope you can have that day off for some much needed emotional train wreck time.
Im still wondering if Im going to cry like an infant when I drop her off for first grade. Uh! This sucks, Im going to miss her!



answers from Washington DC on

My daughter had huge emotional outbursts every time she moved to a new grade as well (and she wasn't even changing schools). She has some other issues that compounded the problem so her psychologist suggested to point out that its not her friends and teachers leaving but that she's leaving them because she's turning into a big girl. The idea that it was her moving up in the world and that her old teachers were only qualified to teach small children and she needed to go to the grade where there were teachers specifically for her age helped her change her whole mindset about the transition. She was still sad about leaving but it helped her feel like it was a right of passage, and not that she was losing all these friends and teachers and everything she's been comfortable with for so long.


answers from Lansing on

When my daughter started her new school, we not only visited the school, but also went quite a few times over the summer to the playground to play. Someone suggested it to me. She loved the playground and now had a sense of really knowing a part of her new school. Transition was still hard for her, but I found not really bringing it up until I had to is what worked best for her.

She is now starting a new school again for 1st grade and I've mentioned it a couple times always with excitement but left it at that. We will go visit the school before she starts, but for the most part I'm just letting her enjoy the rest of her summer worry free.

I think it sounds like you've done plenty to try to reassure her. Outside of the advice of maybe having her play at the playground, I would just ease up and enjoy the rest of your summer.

In time she will adjust and be fine. :)



answers from Albuquerque on

Any possibility you can take her to visit the new classroom if she hasn't already seen it? I'm sure she's scared about the change. She knows she like Pre-K and feels safe there; kindergarten is an unknown. Also, tell her about any friends going to the new school with her, talk about the similarities -- she'll have a teacher, they'll do snack, there will be books to read, dress up clothes to play with, whatever.

Basically I'd stress the similarities and not talk about what an exciting change this is.



answers from Tallahassee on

I wish I could offer you some advice but I'm going through the same thing with my daughter right now. We've been to the elementary school for kindergarten orientation and she even took a field trip there with her preschool class (although a lot of them will be going to different schools). Last week was really rough for her at preschool and at home. She hit a little boy in her class one day, refused to listen to her teacher, had full blown tantrums in the car (screaming and kicking the front seats) on the way home and while at home and she just wasn't sleeping well either. She's been asking me for quite a while, pretty much every day for the last month or so, if she's big. I always tell her that she gets a little bigger every day and that she's bigger than the little kids but still not as big as mommy and daddy. Well, the other night at bedtime she asked again and I gave her my usual answer and she responded by saying that she didn't want to be big. She said that she wanted to stay small and stay at her preschool in the same class and not go to kindergarten. It turns out that they have been talking a lot about going to kindergarten and being big kids in her preschool class and it was really making her nervous and scared instead of making her excited. I think she was acting out due to the stress and also possibly thinking that if she acted like a little kid (throwing tantrums) that she would be able to stay in preschool instead of leaving to go to kindergarten. Unfortunately, there are only 3 little boys from her class that will be going to her new school. I think it would be easier on her if at least one or two of the girls would be going there too.

I think it helped my daughter for me to just acknowledge that she's scared about going to kindergarten and that's okay. I explained to her that I was scared when I started kindergarten too but I ended up having sooo much fun and made lots of new friends. I also mentioned her fear about starting kindergarten to her teacher so she could talk to my daughter about it at school.

I think you should talk to your daughter's preschool teacher and maybe she could address this with the whole class (your daughter probably isn't the only kid in class that's nervous about kindergarten) and even give your daughter a little encouragement and an extra hug if she's having a tough time right now.



answers from Denver on

It sounds like you are doing all the right things with your daughter and really going the extra mile with her to make her feel comfortable. Good job. One thing I wonder about . . . Have you considered that perhaps you're in some ways reinforcing the buildup and adding energy to her anxiety rather than allowing it to ease on it's own? Please dont hear that as criticism because it's not at all how it's intended. Just a reflection back of what I'm seeing from this side. There is a certain amount of grief she is experiencing leaving a school and friends she has grown to love. It's a big deal. You are doing everything possible to help her but she may just need some time to process it internally too?

Is it possible to help her to keep some of her Pre-K friends and do playdates with them, now and after school starts? Pehaps, you could find out which kids in your neighborhood are going to be in kindergarten at her school to and organize a group park date as a Get-to-know-you opportunity.

She sounds like a caring, intuitive and darling little girl. I have a feeling, she's going to find her bff within a week.

edit: just read Sara's post after the fact. Apparently great minds do think alike : )


answers from New York on

I have a similar situation - my 4 yo is changing pre-schools. The one she went to, her older sister also went to and she was used to it. Well now that the older one is going into kindergarten, I found a full day pre-school near me, and I won't have to have a nanny anymore, and I can work from home and take the girls to and from school every day. Well the 4yo had a FIT about the new school. I took her there, she met the teacher, played with toys etc. She said she "hates" the school and "she's not going" and more. But what I have been doing is repeatedly getting her excited about going. Like, we will take a walk and I will have us walk to her school, and I say this is Katie's new school. She'll say "I'm NOT GOING!" and I'll say ok, ok. Then a few days later, I will say something to a neighbor whose kids are going there too and I'll say Katie, did you tell so and so the news, that you're going to be in their class. and so on. Repeatedly lightly introducing it and then backing off. Well we've been working on this since June and now, she is excited about going. I bought her school supplies and she is very excited about her new princess lunch box...
I think you're doing all the right things, I would think she'll be ok!


answers from Milwaukee on

My daughter is headed into kindergarten this year too. After preschool she was sad, said she did not want to go to the new school even though she knows about a dozen older kids (who she loves) that go there, and it is full day which she is nervous about.

We visited the school and her classroom three times this summer. Just so she gets use to where I will bring her in, her teacher (who is there almost everyday now getting ready) and the classroom. We have taken a tour of the school once, saw the other classrooms, where they eat lunch, playground, office and gym. This seemed to really, really help my daughter be less anxious about the transition.

We have already gone school shopping, she was there with me, helping me out. She loved it and then she helped me put everything in a bag to take to school on registration day which is taken place about a week and a half before the first day of school. On the registration day I hope to be able to walk with her through the school again just so she because more comfrotable with being there.

My daughter is now counting down the days till she starts kindergarten!



answers from Beaumont on

My kids got a handwritten postcard from their Kindergarten teacher about 2 weeks before school started. It was very sweet, talked about how excited she was and all the fun things they'd get to do. This helped aleviate those fears. Maybe (although I don't favor being dishonest) you could send one "from the teacher"....



answers from Washington DC on

You're doing a lot of great things already to help her -- please pat yourself on the back! And you're also aware, I can tell, that you don't want to over-emphasize K too much right now or it will loom too large in her imagination over the summer. The books and school supply shopping etc. are all great.

You said you'd taken her to the new school "to visit," but was that just a her-and-you quick visit, or has the school had an orientation day for all kindergarteners yet? That may still be to come since it's still July. Check to see if one is planned. Many schools have kindergarteners come for a brief time, maybe two hours or so, one day before school begins to visit their classrooms and other areas (library, cafeteria, gym) and meet their teachers; these orientation days sometimes include a brief, fun activity in what will be their classrooms in the fall. If your school does not plan any such orientation day -- ask if they will! It puts your child in what will be her own classroom (she'll see all the cool new toys, games, chalkboards, painting area....) with other kids who will be in her class. For some kids seeing the places like the kid-friendly library is a big eye-opener that "this place is for ME and it's fun."

If the school doesn't or won't do an orientation half-day for kindergarteners, then see if you can arrange a "kindergarten play date." (Our local school organizes both things for parents, actually.) Find parents of other kids who will be in that school for K and meet on the school playground for a while one day -- the kids will get to explore a new playground with other children from their class or at least their grade. I don't know how to locate those parents, though, because at our school the K play date is organized by the school itself.

She likely isn't really scared or intimidated by kindergarten itself but by the prospect of leaving behind what is very familiar to her at her preschool and preschool camp. She may have some initial mornings where she is resistant but if her teachers are even halfway decent they will know how to get kids right into their kindergarten day and distract the heck out of them until they love to go there. And in the summer, of course, pure distraction is fine -- get her play dates with any friends who are going to be at her school but without talking about school; take her somewhere she hasn't been before; etc. The fact she is so aware of what's coming means she's probably very bright and aware of herself and her surroundings which is actually great!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions