Kindergarten Adjustment Advice

Updated on July 30, 2009
L.G. asks from Fort Collins, CO
12 answers

Help - I have several concerns about my little guy starting kindergarten this year and looking for some wisdom from those that have gone thru it.

He is a fairly attached child (for example. He LOVES swimming but swimming lessons were a disaster last month as he wanted me to be close by and cried until we took him home 6 out of the 8 days of the program). He still gets weepy when parting at daycare (he is only going 2 days a week currently which is down from the 5 he has been going for the last 4 years). We believe that change in his routine is responsible for his anxiety due to lack of consistancy and who is watching him - some of which he will regain (hopefully) from kindergarten.

Hence my questions:

1. How do the teachers generally deal with those kids that are having a hard time - crying etc? (he may do just fine - but I am not convinced).

2. Any special preparations we can make to help the transition. We do get to go to the school for a 1/2 day with him before it officially starts. Any other little steps we should take?

3. (The Biggy) He really wants to ride the bus but it is a 35 minute ride from our house in the foothills to school. And given the above - I am not sure if we should let him or if we should wait or is that just going to make the seperation anxiety worse? Concerned that if we don't have him ride from the beginning he will have a harder time transitioning to the school bus ride later in the year.

Any thoughts would be appreciated - especially those who have gone thru it.


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answers from Boise on

I haven't been through this, but had a couple thoughts: maybe taking him to the school to play on the toys/have a picnic (just spending time there) and talking about him going there soon without mom and dad will help prepare him. Stress how fun it is going to be to play with the other kids.
As soon as you know who his teacher will be, schedule a time to meet and discuss the issues and ask how it is handled (this is likely something they deal with yearly). Let you son meet the teacher and get to know him/her so there is a familiar face when he starts school.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

1. How do the teachers generally deal with those kids that are having a hard time - crying etc? (he may do just fine - but I am not convinced). Depends on the teacher, but my son's Kindy teacher would just take charge and recommend that you leave your child even if he/she was crying. She was pretty 'tough' - not particularly warm and fuzzy.

2. Any special preparations we can make to help the transition. We do get to go to the school for a 1/2 day with him before it officially starts. Any other little steps we should take? I would talk to the principal and let them know your concerns. See what suggestions he/she has. I'm sure they are used to this.

3. (The Biggy) He really wants to ride the bus but it is a 35 minute ride from our house in the foothills to school. And given the above - I am not sure if we should let him or if we should wait or is that just going to make the seperation anxiety worse? Concerned that if we don't have him ride from the beginning he will have a harder time transitioning to the school bus ride later in the year.
If he wants to ride the bus, I would let him - you're talking a regular school bus right? Where they pick him up, and he doesn't get off until he reaches the school - supervision, etc. I took the bus to Kindy, and it was only 10 mins to school in the am, but 30 on the way home. I actually enjoyed it, except the part where I was the 2nd to last kid dropped off in the afternoon - that part was boring. The excitement of the bus might make the separation better - or it might not...

Good luck.



answers from Denver on

Hi L.,

I could just cry reading your post- such a hard time (for your son AND you). Great advice already, just wanted to share my experience for what it's worth. My daughter was also a clingy one (still is- 4th grade now).

I did find it helpful to ask the teacher how she handles these kind of children. They have been through many kids who have a hard time leaving mom, and are usually nice.

A quick exit does work best. If you keep giving 'one more hug' and keep talking to him over and over, it just drags it out and really does make it harder. I found with my daughter that saying ahead of time exactly what would happen made it easier. "I will line up with you and hold your hand up to the door, then give you one kiss and hug and then you will go in". This made the morning predictable for her. She often still cried, but she was just sad, not freaked and floundering, and therefore not anxious. Read lots of books about starting school, come up with your 'plan' for each morning, and even practice it.

Your plan sounds like it will involve the bus, which might go either way. I do think if he's excited about that, let him do it. But make sure he knows what it's all about. If you have time, head on down to Douglas County where school has already started and let him actually see what it's like to get on the bus (if he hasn't seen it before). Then, with him, come up with the plan to see him off.

The best thing I did with my daughter was to have the practice, stick to a plan, and NEVER make her feel bad for how she is feeling or acting. Suggesting that it's been long enough or whatever is simply pressure they don't need. Best of luck!



answers from Denver on

Hi L. - my oldest is going into 2nd grade now and I remember this time well.

Most teachers have some kind of a conference time or open house for incoming students, especially kinders. I would highly recommend making time for this. If that's not available, have a phone appt. with the teacher or the principal. I would definitely say take him to look at the school and to see where his classroom is going to be. If your child has a buddy who is also starting school, consider taking them together. The less anxiety you show about school, the less they will probably feel.

There were a couple of kids who were weepy the first couple of days in my son's class but it quickly subsided as the kids got into their routine. If there is a huge problem, they will probably send your child to the office or the school nurse and call you.

Also, with you being a realtor you have some flexibility in your schedule. Maybe consider volunteering an hour or a day a week in the classroom.

Lastly, if your kinder wants to ride the schoolbus, I would encourage you to allow it. At our school, the class aide met the students at the buses, the kinders all exited first and then the aides escorted the kids to class. That was very comforting to an anxious parent like me.

p.s. I LOVE your 'About Me' comment. My husband teases me that I'm not happy unless I have something to worry about. Ha!



answers from Salt Lake City on

When my eldest daughter started Kindergarten, she was given the book "The Kissing Hand" from a family friend, which is about Chester the Raccoon's first time at school and how his mom's love is there with him, even though she isn't. It's a really great book and is now one of our favorites. We give it out as gifts to friends and cousins now.

Our daughters have ridden the bus from day one--it's a really exciting "big kid" activity for them, since they get to go to school now. Perhaps you could get some books about busses or school busses to read together prior to K starting for your son.



answers from Denver on

Hi L., I have gone through this with four kids and still have one more to go. All of them have been pretty good with it. The only one that we had the same reaction that you seem to be getting was our 8 year old. We finally just realized that he was not ready emotionally to go to school. So we took him out half way through the year. Boys I have noticed, since I have four, are generally not as ready as soon as girls are. When it came time for 1st grade he did wonderful, in fact he is in the top of his classes now. I beleive that giving him that extra time at home made all the difference for him. Good luck



answers from Denver on

Hi L.,

Being a primary teacher I can tell you that the number one thing that you can do to help your son and teacher is to let the teacher deal with him once he is at school. We are more than prepared to deal with tears but it is harder to do if the parent lingers in the classroom. You can certainly keep in close contact with the teacher (conversations before the first day, phone calls to do a check in during the day, conversations after school) but overall it is best if the teacher helps him with the anxiety and transition. You can work out some deals with the teacher and your son so that he sees the home and school connection (ie You reward him at home for good behavior etc. at school)
Don't feel as though you are alone. There are many kids out there (and parents) that have the same anxieties.
As far as the transition, you should talk it up like the big boy deal that it is. Take him shopping for his supplies/clothes etc. Also, if there is anyone familiar that will be at school this year, you should talk that up as well (neighbor, friend)
The bus ride...maybe you should see how the first week goes and then make it a reward. Tell him that you have to take him the first week or couple days and then he gets to ride the bus!!
Good Luck with this upcoming year. Just know that the beginning might be rough, but it won't be that way for long.



answers from Salt Lake City on

My daughter had a hard time until her teacher talked to her about it:

dd:I'm sad
Teacher: why?
dd:I miss my mommy. There's no one to take care of me.
Teacher: When you're at school, that's my job. I will take care of you and make sure you're safe and make sure you're OK.
dd: Oh, OK...

after that, I had to drag her away from school each day. She wouldn't leave until everyone else was gone and she'd helped put all the chairs up on the desks.
my boy starts next year. He's shy around kids until he hears the magic phrase: "oh, those are your friends - you better go tell them your name"

I don't know why...but if I tell him the kids are already his friends, he treats them like long lost buddies.
Take your boy to the kindergarten playground as often as you can. but only stay for 30 minutes. Have him go ask any friends 'what's your name?' ....and when it's time to go, be firm...but tell him we'll be come back again....and when you're in kindergarten, you'll be able to play on the playground every day!
If he wants to ride the bus, I'd do play dates with another boy who's going to be on the bus. Then instead of leaving mom, he'll be going to see XXXXXX friend and sit by him on the bus.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Is it a full or half day program? The fact that you have him in daycare two days a week is great but depending on how long the Kindergarten program is, it may not be the best transition if you are going from 2 days to 5 full days. You may want to look into a year of preschool with a program longer than the daycare but shorter than kindergarten if that's possible. When I was a school administrator, it concerned me that parents wouldn't do a progressive program often because they wanted their child home with them a little longer. Where I used to work Full Day kindergarten was the only option unless you went to one of the few private schools that offered half day. Parents would put their child in a 2 day 2 hour program for prechool and then go to the county Kindergarten because it was free for full day. Of course the child had adjustment issues! 4 hours away from mommy to nearly 30 hours away from mommy.
Teachers are well prepared to deal with this however, more often than daycare because teachers are often required to have more education/experience. After a month or so schedule a follow up conference with the teacher to see how your child is adjusting and if there is anything you can do. They will be able to make recommendations.
As for the bus, it is scary for a child at first so you could let him try and then drive him if it doesn't work or you could wait until after a long holiday break, like the holiday break and let him start riding then after he's shown you how independent he has become since becoming a big kid and going to school.
You know your child best and sometimes a year does a lot for maturity. Swim lessons are hard anyway because you are there in view so that may not be the best thing to base it on. My son had trouble with transitions due to inconsistent scheduling sort of. It was consistent but he went to 2 different daycares and school. I enrolled him in full time preK but we moved before that and now I'm a stay at home mom. I know that all day prek would have helped a lot because he hadn't been in the same place everyday for awhile. (One reason was a daycare he wasn't happy in but we couldn't change him immediatly because no openings). Good luck with the school year. I'm sure he'll be fine.



answers from Denver on

All teachers are different and deal with things in their own way. Realize that he may not be the only one having a hard time and this may make the situation worse. Crying is contagious just like the giggles at this age. My kids were awesome by the time they were in kindergarten. They were in preschool and ECE (4 year olds). My daughter walked right in the classroom last year and wanted to teach the class. =)
It maybe difficult since school is ready to begin in a few weeks (Yikes!) but make sure he knows that he will make friends have fun and you will always be there when school is over. I am not sure but if you can do it take him to school. I am not sure about him on the bus without an older sibling. The only reason mine rode the bus was because she had her older brothers (6th and 8th grade) and their friends to be there in case she had any problems. I am scared about what might happen if he is alone. That is just me being paronoid about all the scrazies out there just waiting to make their move. Other things you can do is get him excited about learning to do new things. Let him pick out his supplies (batman, spiderman, whatever he likes) and have him put his name on them. No matter if you hate them. Trust me my boys picked some ugly folders and notebooks but that is what they wanted. It is the small things that can make the most differance. I only hope 1st grade goes as well as Kindergarten did for my girl. I also have one starting High School. Just wait it only gets more exciting!
Good luck and remember they are only young once.



answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi L.,
I haven't experienced any of this as a parent, but I have experience all of it as a Kindergarten teacher! I hope I can answer your questions in a way that will help you and your son.
1. All teachers, especially Kindergarten teachers, are familiar with children who do not want to separate from parents. While it will be difficult to do, the best thing you can do for him on that first 'real' day of school (when you don't get to stay) is to give him a big hug and kiss, tell him you'll see him after school and how anxious you'll be to hear all about his fun day, and walk out the door. The longer you stay the harder it will be for everyone. His teacher will walk him into the room, if necessary another teacher/staff member will help, and get him settled with his new classmates.
2. Get him as familiar with the school as possible before the first day. I know how busy the staff is getting ready for the beginning of the year, but it may be possible (don't count on it though) to take him to meet his teacher and see his classroom before day one. A lot of schools have a 'meet the teacher' night a day or two before the first day of school. This will give him some familiarity with the building, faces he'll see around, and most of all his teacher and classroom.
3. That is a long bus ride for a Kindergartener! Are there going to be other kids from your neighborhood on the bus that he knows? That always helps with new situations. If you would prefer to wait, which I would recommend if he won't know anyone on the bus, then do so until he expresses interest again. Check with his teacher and find out about field trips. That is always a good introduction to riding the bus because he'll be on there with a class full of kids he has gotten to know.
I hope this has helped. Just remember, the happy and the more relaxed you are about everything, the better he will feel about it. Good luck to you and your son.



answers from Denver on

It's always hard transitioning into new adventures. I was fortunate enough to not have my daughter be attached at the hip, but she is a worrier and was very apprehensive last year about starting school. I think every teacher is different, but with ours we had a wonderful teacher and her aid. They worked with me and my daughter through some of the rough issues we had. I think communication is the key. As a side note I have worked daycare and noticed that many times even though some kids are clingy and weepy when their parents are there, but as soon as they leave they do just fine. ( Don't know if you've ever asked how things are after you leave.)
As for preparations, let go of your fears, as he will sense your anxiety and be positive. Have him pick out his backpack and maybe a special shirt. Talk about how fun everything is going to be and mention how he is going to meet new friends. It's good that you get to go to school before it starts so he can meet his teacher and see where everything is. Be excited for him. We read The Kissing Hand and my daughter loved it. For months we kissed each others hands before going to the bus, and I always reminded her that I would be here.
As for the bus, perhaps it would be an easier transition due to him looking forward to something instead of you dropping him off at school where he is not as excited about being left. Its kind of like giving him the power... he gets on the bus instead of being left ( hope that makes sense) When my daughter was apprehensive I know that the bus was the only part my daughter was excited about. Her ride was about 20 minutes and she was mad when she had to get off.
Best of wished to you are your son.

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