Going off to preschool or kindergarten is an important milestone for both you and your child. It may be their first step away from home or a transition to a new setting and friends. Even the return to a familiar program has its excitements, pleasures, and anxieties. At the 3, 4, and 5, “change” can bring a multitude of feelings and thoughts. Some children accept and enjoy change more than others. But it’s not unusual for even the most “experienced” child to need some extra attention during the first days and weeks of school.
While the start of every new school year is a special occasion, the first day of kindergarten may be the biggest learning milestone there is. But in the wake of widespread school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the start of this school year could be even more memorable for students (and parents) who’ve just said goodbye to preschool. The good news is there are lots of ways parents can get their children ready for their first day of kindergarten—whether it’s in a real classroom or online—without in-person resources.
Meet the Teacher: It’s important for your child to visit their new school if they can so check with your school to see if it’s a possibility this year. An in-person visit will help them feel prepared for this big change in their little lives.
If class will be offered virtually, kids can still meet their new teacher on video conferencing or with a quick phone call so that they can make contact and become acquainted. This is also a great time for parents to ask questions and to clarify any information before the start of the school year.
Get Social: Model turn-taking, sharing and good manners, and try to arrange playdates, both in person and virtually where your child can practice their social skills. You can also practice conversation skills with your child by modeling, asking questions, showing interest and maintaining eye contact.
Go Shopping: Whether school is traditional or virtual it just feels special to start out with new resources. Let your child pick out their new backpack, pencil case, lunch box, and a water bottle, then get crafty and customize them together.
Open talk: Have an open conversation with your child about what’s worrying them and let them know that it’s completely normal to feel anxious. Talk to them calmly about some of the changes they may expect at school, such as needing to wear masks and keep a distance from their friends and teachers. Reassure them that these safety measures are in place to keep students and teachers healthy. You can also highlight the important role they can play in keeping themselves healthy, such as washing their hands with soap and water.
Remind children about the positives — they will be able to see their friends and teachers and continue learning new things.
Precautions: One of the best ways to keep safe from COVID-19 and other diseases is to simply encourage regular handwashing with soap. At school children will see new handwashing stations and signs near their classrooms. They should wash their hands regularly and remind their friends to do the same.
It doesn’t need to be a scary conversation. Sing along with their favourite song or do a dance together to make learning fun. You can also show children how to cover a cough or a sneeze with their elbow, and ask them to tell you if they start to feel like they have a fever, cough or are having difficulty breathing.
Look out for your child: The coronavirus outbreak has caused major disruptions to daily life — and children are feeling these changes deeply. As your child returns to school you should keep an eye on their physical health, learning, emotions and behaviour.
Look out for these signs of stress and anxiety to gauge if your child needs extra support from you:
- Lack of interest in playing with other children or completing their homework
- Not sleeping or eating well
- Loss of interest in their hobbies or friends
Before children go back, remind them it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. You should explain that the virus has nothing to do with what someone looks like, where they are from or what language they speak. Remind your children that everyone deserves to be safe at school.
Remember- First school Day, first book, first pencil, first teacher- all are waiting to mould your child’s world!