Kindergarten Tips for Moms

Kindergarten is a very big deal.  It marks that defining moment when our babies turned toddlers turned preschoolers officially become little kids.


Armed with backpacks that cover their entire bodies and lunch bags large enough to hold enough food to satisfy an entire construction site, we send them off into the big world.  The one where we probably won’t be called at the slightest sign of tears, the one where classrooms now hold up to 24, the one where they stay for a little bit longer…the one where our little kids begin to feel a little bit bigger.


Some kids are excited, some kids are nervous, but most kids experience a little bit of both.  Either way, the kids will adjust over time.  They will find a friend, eat lunch in groups, and learn new things every day.  Even the very anxious ones will find their way in this new exciting world.


But the moms?  That’s another story.


Letting go is an impossible task.  It’s hard to trust other people with your precious cargo every single day.  It’s hard to say goodbye five days a week.  It’s hard to sit back and watch them fly, even though this is, in fact, the real task of parenthood.


I didn’t sleep for a week before Riley’s first day.  She was ready.  The school is amazing.  She was placed with the teacher I requested and with her best girlfriend.  By all accounts, I had nothing to worry about.


But sometimes the aftermath of infertility follows us.  I fought long and hard to have her, and I don’t believe I will every truly be able to just let go.


I prepared myself as much as possible.  I practiced deep breathing and holding back my tears so that I would be able to get through that first drop-off with a big hug and huge smile, because that’s what Riley would need.  It worked.  I was able to hold it together just long enough to get back to my car and sob to my mother (a woman who faced this impossible task four times over).


And as I watched the clock and wondered what she was doing every single second of that four hour window, it occurred to me that Kindergarten moms could take some solid advice from Kindergarten students.


Get excited:  Your child is off on a brand new adventure.  She will meet new friends, learn new things, and come home with endless stories to tell.  Soak up that excitement every afternoon.  Ask a lot of questions, listen to those stories, and be present from the moment she returns to the moment she sleeps.  Be excited about all of these firsts…


Smile often:  We teach our children that a smile is a sign of friendliness, but do we always follow our own advice?  Greet the teacher with a great big smile each morning, as this is the person caring for your child for the next few hours, after all.  Leave your child with a big hug and even bigger smile.  When you worry, they worry.  When you smile, they know that all is ok.


Be friendly:  You are sending your child off to make new friends and meet new people, but this is also an opportunity for you to do the same.  Reach out to the other parents and start building those relationships.  You are all in this together.  It’s a great time to find support and get to know the parents of the other kids in the class.


Listen carefully:  Listening skills are essential in Kindergarten.  The projects get a little more complicated and the instruction is a lot more guided.  Your child will spend her days listening and reacting.  Step away from the iPhone and do the same.  Ask your child questions and sit and listen to the answers without interruption.  We get very used to having them around all of the time, so it makes sense that it’s hard for parents to separate when Kindergarten rolls around.  Make the most of the parent-child moments that you have by listening carefully and taking an interest in what your child has to say.


All feelings are ok:  We always tell our children that it’s ok to feel happy, sad, mad, or confused, but we don’t always make room for those emotions in our own lives.  It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about this transition.  It’s also normal to cry and feel sad that your little one is away from you more.  Make time for those emotions.  Talk to your partner, your mother, and your friends.  Work your way through it the best that you can so that you can be happy and excited for your little one on the big first day.


Reach out:  Get to know your child’s teacher.  Complete any forms provided with as many details as possible.  Often these forms are a way for the teacher to get to know your child.  When filling out Riley’s form during the orientation I mentioned that she really shines when given the opportunity to feel helpful.  Guess who got to deliver forms to the library on the third day of school?  She hasn’t stopped talking about it since.  Teachers appreciate input, but they also appreciate positive feedback.  Send a little note to let your child’s teacher know that your child is really thriving.  Sometimes a quick note goes a very long way toward building a great parent-teacher relationship.


Ask for help:  You wouldn’t want your child to sit in silence when feeling completely overwhelmed, would you?  Reach out and ask for help when you’re going through this process and if you hit any obstacles throughout the school year.  You want your child to have an amazing first school year experience, and that starts with you.


I’m here to tell you that I survived the first week.  I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher.  I couldn’t have asked for a better classroom or a better friend by her side.  I cried my way through that first day and stared down the clock as the seconds slowly ticked away, but the look of pride and happiness on her face when I picked her up that day?  Was well worth the tears.


And I would do it all over again.


Be strong mamas, you’re about to witness an incredible transformation…and you don’t want to miss a minute of it.

About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)


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