Kindergarten Readiness: Your Child's Fears

What If My Child Expresses Fears About Going to School?

Most kindergarten teachers plan special activities involving parents and children for the first week of school. Try to attend these events. They offer the perfect opportunity for your child to feel comfortable in his new setting, meet his classmates, and get to know his teacher.

Some children are excited and make the transition to kindergarten with amazing ease. Others are uneasy: "Will I make friends? Will I get lost?" If your child expresses fears, listen to him, and then state back to him what you believe he is feeling. This will let him know that you understand, and that he can trust you with his feelings. Try to boost his confidence by remaining positive yourself. Continue to talk about his apprehensions as they arise.

Something else you can do to alleviate his fears is to read books about kindergarten together. Here are some suggestions (not available from Focus on the Family):

  • Kindergarten Kids by Ellen B. Senisi
  • Learning Is Fun with Mrs. Perez by Alice K. Flanagan
  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
  • Sparky and Eddie: The First Day of School by Tony Johnston
  • When You Go to Kindergarten by James Howe
  • First Grade Can Wait by Lorraine Aseltine
  • Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner by Amy Schwartz

These books are geared toward parents (also not available from Focus on the Family):

  • Kindergarten: It Isn't What It Used to Be by Susan K. Golant and Mitch Golant
  • Kindergarten: Ready or Not?: A Parent's Guide by Sean A. Walmsley and Bonnie Brown Walmsley
  • The Kindergarten Survival Handbook: The Before School Checklist and a Guide for Parents by Allana Cummings Elovson
  • Megaskills: Building Children's Achievement for the Information Age by Dorothy Rich
  • How To Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten by Florence Karnofsky and Trudy Weiss
  • Off to School: A Parent's-Eye View of the Kindergarten Year by Irene Hannigan
  • Your Child in School: Kindergarten Through Second Grade by Tom and Harriet Sobol
  • Kindergarten by Marjorie Ramsey

Is My Child Really Ready for Kindergarten?

Assessing your child's readiness for kindergarten can be tricky. Let's face it: It is difficult to be objective about your own child. You may want to ask the opinion of other adults who have spent time with him. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with you.

One of the best ways to decide whether your child is ready is to think about his strengths and weaknesses. The following list contains behaviors that are potential barriers to learning. If you "see" your child on this list, however, don't despair! Each child is an individual, so the profile of one child will be very different from another — even within the same family. Your child's teacher has the background to diagnose such behaviors and the training to help each child learn and grow.

  • immature speech patterns
  • difficulty separating from his mother
  • many behavior ups and downs
  • constant state of motion
  • short attention span
  • easily distracted
  • limited success with fine motor skills (cutting, coloring, etc.)
  • in need of constant supervision on playground equipment, or forgets safety rules
  • disruptive or destructive
  • would rather argue than compromise
  • needs rest but resists settling down
  • struggles with changes in routine
  • often fails to finish tasks
  • works better one-on-one than he does alone or in a group setting
  • has trouble following simple instructions
  • shows silly, boisterous humor that is out of step with other children his age
  • has poor bladder control that is especially evident under stress
  • tends to forget or lose items and belongings

Whether to send your child to kindergarten now or wait until next year is not an easy decision, especially if he exhibits many of the behaviors listed above. To help you make the best possible decision, talk to his preschool teacher, caregiver or pediatrician. Consult beforehand with his new teacher and discuss his social and emotional maturity, unique personality, needs, strengths, and areas of concern as well as the school's programs, expectations, and services. Consider how you, your child, and the school will all work together.

Even though it is not your child's decision to make, get a sense of how he feels about starting school. A child who throws a tantrum at the thought of school may well need an additional year rich in interaction with others before starting kindergarten.

Think of the big picture: If you have nagging doubts about your child's ability to handle kindergarten, it may well be best to give him the gift of an additional year. During that time, make sure he has lots of play dates, story hours at the public library, an additional year in (or first exposure to) preschool, and plenty of opportunities to interact with a variety of children in a variety of situations.

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