How Do I Help My Preschooler to Prepare Socially for Kindergarten?

Updated on May 22, 2017
J.D. asks from Clackamas, OR
20 answers

My 5 yo daughter is so excited to start kindergarten, and the whole family is proudly preparing, but we are nervous about how well she'll handle making a whole new set of friends. I'd like to try to keep in touch with a couple of families that we've met through preschool, but realistically, we won't see most of them after the school year ends. How do I explain to her that she won't see these kids ever again without breaking her heart? While at the same time keeping her enthusiastic about kindergarten starting this fall? How do I help to set her up to make some strong, true friendships that might stick with her throughout childhood and even beyond?

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answers from New York on

Less is more. 80% of the kids in my granddaughters preschool will go to same school. My granddaughter will not. She asked I explained that different kids go to different schools. She will make new friends. End of discussion. She was fine with it. If you do not make a big deal of it she won't. Don't keep talking about it. She will do just fine.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I never told my kids they wouldn't see those kids again. I just stressed how much fun Kinder would be and going to see the new school, etc etc etc....

You won't keep up with those families and that will happen again at the middle school level...but by then they do know and they learn to live with it and make new friends.

Stress the fun and excitement....but don't start talking about it until maybe a few days before it starts....three months is too long for them to process.

Good luck!!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

First of all, you don't tell her that she won't see her preschool friends. Don't even bring it up! If she wants to get together for play dates, then set those up. But don't impose on her any emotional reactions that she may not even have. Saying this is "breaking her heart" is projecting emotions on her that you, truly, have no idea she will experience!

Get involved in the fun of summer, whatever that means to you. Sleeping late? Going to the beach? Going to some sort of summer camp or the library programs or town recreation activities? Going camping or on vacation? Doing driveway chalk and hopscotch and putting in a wading pool? Gat a membership or borrow passes from the library for a local children's or science museum?

You'll be surprised at how fast kids' attention spans switch around! Life is about new experiences, not lamenting what one has outgrown. Be more positive.

If your concerns about preparation are based on few social skills, consider holding her back a year. But if you think she's on target and will just be meeting new kids, get excited about the kindergarten orientation and all the fun she will have. New kids, new classroom, new resources, new fun...positive, positive, positive. Go to the school during the summer to play on the playground or run around the bases, whatever makes it feel like "home" and a fun place. Point out the school bus going by and say how cool it will be to ride that. If she's never been on a bus, if possible, go downtown or to a nearby city with mass transit and ride a bus or a subway/trolley. Make it clear that her bus will only have kids and not a lot of stops, but gee whiz, isn't it fun to look out the big windows?

Stop trying to set her up with lifelong friendships at age 5. How many people from your kindergarten class are you still hanging out with? How many kids from 2nd grade do you remember, follow on Facebook, send Christmas cards to? Instead, boost her confidence in meeting new people and growing and finding relationships as she matures. You want to raise a child who is totally competent in going into new situations, meeting a new teacher each year, going off to sleep-away camp or college, and more!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Honestly, I think parents stress about kindergarten WAY more than most kids do. In fact, from my experience, it's usually the stress of the parent which then stresses the child.

In short-- if we 'all-powerful' (in our children's eyes) adults are worried, kids pick up on that and believe there is a reason for worry.

Friendship in younger children is often misunderstood. Kids can have buddies, but it's rare that two five year olds become life-long friends. In fact, most children in preschool and early elementary ages are 'trying out' other kids and figuring out who is fun to play with and who isn't. Stronger friendships don't usually appear until around Grade 3 or so, Just as in dating life, kids are going to kiss a lot of frogs before they find a group of buddies they want to stick with long term. It's important not to introduce that whole Best Friends Forever sort of thing to kids.... it puts too much importance on one individual person instead of teaching kids that friendship is relatively fluid at younger ages. This will help kids be more resilient as friendships wax and wane, which they often do in elementary school.

So, don't worry about 'strong, true friendships at this point'. More importantly, accept that you cannot orchestrate this. What you can do is just teach her how to treat people kindly, to be considerate, to speak up for herself when she should, and help her learn how to go with the flow and accept others for who they are. These are life lessons, certainly not learned and mastered at any young age. Just think-- your child has so many years to grown and develop these attractive traits! I've worked with young children for a long, long time-- their version of friendship can be far more healthy, far more forgiving, far less complex than what we adults experience. Don't put too much import on it, let her enjoy it. The worst thing parents can do is to 'break the news' to their children that kindergarten is some sort of huge transition where they don't see their old friends any longer and have to make new ones. Let your kiddo enjoy the summertime without this stress. I've seen the other side of this.. you don't want it. Don't worry about this and allow your daughter to develop these skills and relationships naturally, okay? ;)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

The best thing you can do, to ensure your child will have friends, is to help develop within her the qualities that make a good friend. You can thank her for helping you ("Thank you, sweetheart, for helping Mommy put the groceries away. It's nice to work together."). Don't overdo it. Don't praise her for putting the bananas in the basket like she just won the Nobel Prize. Just help her realize that cooperation and sharing in tasks makes for a lighter work load. Help develop qualities like kindness, reliability, trustworthiness, by demonstrating them in the home. At 5, she's probably able to do small chores around the home (setting the table, putting toys where they belong) and you can recognize that. "Honey, I like how you treat your toys nicely and keep them neat."

The kind of person who has those strong, true friendships is a person who is strong and true inside, but those friendships don't have to start at a set time, and they often take a long time to develop. Don't even mention the possibility of never seeing her friends again. That's way too drastic. Just look ahead with anticipation, and don't try to arrange her future. You can't possibly predict who will move into your neighborhood, or who will move away, or what your kindergarten child will become interested in as the school years progress. She may discover a love for theater, or the trombone, or teaching, or she may find out that she loves math or wants to be a Marine. She might be drawn to a friend who will surprise you. She might have dozens of casual friends, or a best friend, or two or three.

Don't over plan it. If you have helped her to be a good and kind child, if you have helped her to look forward to trying new things, she'll make new friends. Make sure you tell her when you're trying something new. If you're going to learn to make brownies from scratch when you've only ever bought them from the bakery, tell her that you're going to follow the recipe, that you're a little nervous about trying something so new, but that you feel that learning something new can be both exciting and yes, sometimes a little scary. But show her how to approach new things, and she'll get it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I see some parents 'prepare' with such a huge build up that it ends up scaring the kid to death.
Perhaps a more laid back approach would work.
You don't have her think about her old friends - she's going to be busy meeting and making new friends - just like everyone else in her old preschool class.
You don't explain anything - she has no concept of never seeing her old friends again and you don't have to spell it out for her.
Not every one develops 'strong true' friendships.
Every year she'll meet some new kids, some won't be in the same class as last year, and friends she has will most likely change in middle school and again in high school.
It just seems like a lot of pressure when she's just starting school.
In 13 short years all this will be behind you and she'll be walking across a stage to pick up her diploma.
Enjoy the ride and take it easy!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Most friendships will come and go on a regular basis for her whole life. Any kind of serious sit-down discussion about this with a 5 year old is not going to go well. It just adds angst and stress to a situation that can be handled as matter-of-fact and normal. You can be sympathetic if/when she is distressed, but don't make promises about trying to keep a relationship going when it has run it's course. If a friendship will last past preschool, you will know pretty quick.

My oldest had a preschool best friend; the mother and I became good friends. Our sons attended the same elementary school too. Our adult friendship outlasted that of our kids. They had drifted apart by 3rd grade* but she and I have been close for 13 years now. She is the only preschool parent I've kept in contact with for longer than that first summer.

*Pro tip - do not get personally invested in the upkeep of your kids' friendships. Let them take their natural course. Your own friendships with adults should not depend on your kids also being friends.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

With mine, we never discussed it. One of my kids went on to elementary school with her preschool friends. She made new pals in her kindergarten class. My other kids went to a different preschool and none of the kids went on to their school. They also changed schools mid way through elementary and were just fine - made new friends.

Think back to being 5 years old - they are not that focused on this stuff. I used to play with new kids all the time at that age - it was more about finding kids who liked the same toys as you, or who liked playing outside, etc.

My suggestion would be to recognize YOU are nervous - she likely isn't, or you may be projecting your feelings/fears onto her. Just sound enthusiastic of kindergarten, meet up with old friends when it works out, and be open to new ones.

We ran into an old preschool friend of my son's not that long ago at a hockey tournament. They had been super good buds at age 4-5. They didn't even remember each other (now teens). Clueless. We moms recognized each other of course, they did not.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Don't explain it to her. Invite over old friends now and then to play or meet at the park (or whatever). When she starts Kindergarten express excitement for her that she gets to make more friends in life! Ask who she enjoyed playing with at school. Invite over a new friend to play. When both our kids started Kindergarten I made sure they had playdates with new school friends and that helped them to bond with their new buddies. Remember, you cannot control her friendships. You can help encourage good friendships especially when your child is young. Remember, she can keep her old friends from preschool...but naturally over time she will probably become closer to the friends she sees more often at school. You don't need to have a talk with her about it. It's just a natural process.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Luckily, you don't have to do anything to engineer kids' social lives. Let nature take its course. All of the kids will be in the same situation, and they sort it out for themselves over time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

She'll probably be a little sad at first, but will adjust and move on without lengthy explanations. Just tell her when school is over, she can maybe see those kids sometimes, but summer is a chance to make some new friends too. I do not recommend building up kindergarten now as it would stress her out by the time school actually starts. The fall is a long, long time in the future for a 5 year old and the concept of kindergarten is not concrete for her, so her little mind would run all over the place! Give her fun, interactive experiences with other children (as simple as a park outing or library story time), and she will be entertained and build her social skills. Building lifelong friendships depends on many factors, including the fact that families move about so much, so it is difficult to make such a thing happen. These types of relationships tend to develop organically rather than be manufactured.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

It's completely normal for you to be thinking about kindergarten and next fall, but remember that a 5 year old has trouble thinking past the next day or so.

Try to focus on the summer and things you will be doing. Don't talk about kindergarten. If she asks about a friend from preschool, consider a play date. But don't worry about it. If it happens, great. If not, no biggy. Enjoy your summer.

As you are within a week of the first day of school, then you can talk about kindergarten. Maybe say, "I wonder what your new friends will be like."

Try not to say too much, and let her take the lead. She will ask questions if she's curious or nervous.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I'm with Diane. Just let it be a non-issue until it is something different. Talk about what next school year will be like: New school, new teacher, new classroom, new campus, whatever will be new to her. More kids. If she asks about the kids in her preschool group, tell her you don't know if they will be in her class or not. The new kindergarten classes are in a bigger school, with more kids and you don't know for sure if they will be at the same school or not, or in her same class with her or not. You just don't know. (and you don't, really, for every single kid, right?) Then encourage her about making new friends (just like she did in preschool). And remind her that the other kids will all be new there also, just like she is.

No need to sugarcoat. No need to make it full of drama. NO need to call attention to not seeing her old preschool pals. If she asks, be truthful, but don't add unnecessary information. It'll be the same thing when she transitions from elementary to middle school... the kids may (or may not) all end up at the same middle school (some may move away, etc), but even if they do, they are not likely to all end up in the same classrooms together. And if they are for one class, maybe not for all the classes.

No need to stress and worry about these things... all the students endure this shift together. And she'll make new friends among the kids she encounters in the new environment.

I might be wrong, but I always notice these kids who are overly anxious about things like this tend to have parents who are also overly anxious about things like this. A lot of it may be learned behavior and learned worry. Be aware that you are teaching your child how to cope with change in how YOU address this. Focus on the positive and exciting, and try not to focus on any perceived negatives or sadness. And don't make a huge deal out of any of it. It's life. The bigger deal you make it, the more stress involved... even it it's GOOD stuff you make a big deal out of...

She'll be fine. Go to open house so she can visit her classroom. She might not really meet fellow classmates there during that time, but you can meet fellow parents... and she'll acquire a little comfort with the new environment.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I remember having many of those same thoughts when my oldest (now soon to be 11) was finishing preschool. As the mom, I had been thinking about kindergarten since he was 3! The other moms and I talked about kindergarten, but I tried very hard NOT to talk about it with my son. August is just so far away! At that age, we didn't even talk about holidays until about a week before (if not 2 days before). I wouldn't even tell him until the morning of that we were going to his cousin's house. He concept of time could not handle thinking about something a few weeks away, much less 3 months.

We talked about how exciting it was that he was "graduating" from preschool and how much fun we would have that summer - playing outside and going swimming. I don't even remember what we did that summer, but I really just tried to go with the flow and not talk about kindergarten. We had a few play-dates with friends from preschool, we did things with cousins, we probably went on vacation. I wouldn't say he forgot about preschool, exactly, but it was no longer part of his routine.

When we got closer to the first day of school (maybe a week or two away), we began to mention how excited we were that he was growing up and kindergarten was going to start soon. They had a "Meet the Teacher" night, and he met his teacher and saw his classroom. We talked about meeting new friends.

Don't worry so much about saying goodbye to preschool friends (she's not goiing to be heart broken unless you point it out to her) or be so concerned about establishing life-long friendships. I changed schools in 2nd grade and remained very close friends with one of my kindergarten classmates. We still bump into each other occasionally and catch up. My oldest friend, other than her, is someone I met in Junior High. You just never know.

Try to relax (which is really hard for moms to do), and just have fun this summer. She's going to be just fine!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you need to tone your expectations waaaay down. First, you don't tell her she won't see her preschool friends again. She might end up on a team with them or in Girl Scouts or who knows what else.

Take her to local parks this summer where she might meet kids that go to her school. Other than that - there is nothing to do. Please please do not start talking to her about best or forever friends and you should definitely not get attached to friends in the early grades. I found that my kids switched friend groups every few months in the early grades. My older started to develop longer lasting friendships in 3rd grade, most later than that. Just last week my younger begged to have his friend John over because John is so fun to play with - and John wasn't even on the friend radar to invite to his birthday party 3 months ago. That's how fast early friendships change. You'll save yourself and your child a lot of angst if you accept this as normal.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I don't understand why you won't be continuing some of these friendships, doesn't she want to see her friends during the summer? Didn't she doe pre-K with kids that will be going to her home school? She will do fine but I wouldn't ever just cut all ties with kids she is friends with.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I wouldn't explain to her that she won't see them again unless she specifically asks. And then I would just say, "well they are going to a different school. We might be able to get together with them at some point but you're going to meet so many new kids at school.". Then I would take her around to all of the local parks and library for reading time. We met so many people that ended up going to our school that we have remained friends with to this day! Going to the parks (taking turns), library reading time where they have toys (teaching her to share) are all helpful as she enters kindergarten. In addition to that, I would make sure she knew certain things like her alphabet, colors, shapes, certain words. It will help her "start" in kinder. It gives her a good foundation and a "leg up" for lack of better words. Once she starts kinder and makes friends, try to set up playdates at the park to help solidify and keep those friendships strong. Teach her manners and sharing as those traits will help her make friends more easily.

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answers from Fort Myers on

My 5 year old sons last day of preschool was today. I have been telling my son for the last month that he may not see his friends from school after school ends because he will be going to a big boy school in August. Last week his new elementary school had orientation for the new kindergarten class. I think thats when he realized what I have been talking about because we didn't see anyone from his school there. Hes very shy. It took him around 4 months before he started talking to other kids with him starting the conversation because of that, I've been nervous for him.

I'm not going to lie to him because he has asked if his friends are going to be at the same school. We have school choice. The parents can pick which school you can send your children to.

I have been hyping up kindergarten. I told him he's going to have a new teacher - he was upset that his preschool teachers wouldn't be there, hes good now. Hes going to have new kids to meet, art, gym, and music class. Its a new adventure and he wants to start kindergarten on Monday.

Take your daughter for a tour of her new school. Let her see how happy the kids are there. My son is very shy around other kids at first and I was very nervous for him. After touring his new school, listening to the principal, and teachers talk - I realized hes going to be fine. Hes so excited. Don't over think it like me, your daughter will be fine. Not to sound mean but the kids have to get used to this. Every year its going to be a new teacher and new friends to meet. Just be honest with her. Theres great kids books about starting kindergarten, read those together.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Unless you tell her she most likely won't even think about never seeing her old friends again. (From my experience this was a total non issue for my girls) The summer will come and you'll be busy having fun then kindergarten will come and she will be so excited and she will make new friends. Our school is fairly large, therefore my girls made new friends every year through elementarty school since they were always mixed in with other kids.

It wasn't until middle school that my daughter's made their truly close friends.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

You don't explain *why* she "won't see these kids ever again"? How do you know that to be true? You are moving far away? She will never join Girl Scouts or a local sports team? Not a single one will attend her next school?

If there are a few certain friends who you think she really enjoys seeing, I do think you need to make it your responsibility to try to organize a few summer playdates - it is true that parents "cannot control a child's friendships" BUT a 3-year-old also cannot grab the phone and call her friends to organize her own get-togethers.

Beyond that, though, it is unlikely that anyone she meets at this young age will become a "lifelong friend". Children are growing and changing and figuring out their own personalities and what personality traits in others they are drawn to. Just enjoy watching your daughter's developments and do not get too stressed out about her social connections.

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