There was something about my two sons starting kindergarten that was especially emotional for me, even though the twins had been in full time daycare since they were tiny. Maybe it was the fact that they would be leaving the lovely bubble of their childcare that had nurtured our whole family, not just the boys. Maybe it was just the fact that kindergarten felt big and grown up. Maybe it was that I would no longer share in the small details of their day: who they played with, what they ate for lunch and snack, and what activities they participated in. Maybe it was the new school, new teachers, and new classmates. As I held their hands and walked them to their new classrooms last September, it turned out to be all of these things – and more.
Before that day, I reached out to our pediatrician and he suggested ways we could prepare for the transition. Over the summer, we made trips to the school to play on the playground and peer into the classrooms. We talked about what it would be like to be in a new school: the new friends, school lunch (chocolate milk was mentioned often!) and all the fun, new things to learn and look forward to. We bought new backpacks and packed them up with sharpened pencils and fresh boxes of crayons. We discussed the new routine: how we would walk to school, what the afterschool routine would look like, and where they would eat lunch.
We also read some great books together about other kids starting kindergarten. These included Welcome to Kindergarten by Anna Rockwell, Kindergarten Rocks! By Katie Davis and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolfe.
And yet, when that big day came, I still felt unprepared. Questions filled my mind: What about all the new peer pressure? How would we navigate homework? What about requests for play dates from families we didn’t know? How would we talk about tough issues like bullying and why other kids get to play computer games every day? How would I protect them and shelter them at the same time letting them gain independence?
I know I am not alone in these concerns so I reached out to Dr. Jerry Larabee, a pediatrician at the Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen. I asked if he would present a workshop on this very transition as part of Fletcher Allen’s Spring 2013 Healthsource series of free classes. He said yes: On Saturday, May 4, 2013, Dr. Larabee will cover the transition from preschool to kindergarten and other sticky parenting issues such as peer pressure, homework, and screen time in his free class “Preschoolers and School Readiness.” Register here.
And the biggest lesson from my family’s transition: my boys didn’t look back after they took their seats in their new classroom. They were ready to start this new adventure; our preparation had paid off. In the end, I was the one who had the hardest time letting go.
What are your biggest concerns about sending your child to school? Post your questions here and we will share them in class.
Kristin Fontaine, MPH, is a pediatric outreach lead with Fletcher Allen’s Community Health Improvement office, which offers programs including free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, home safety screenings, the child passenger safety seat program, health assistance program, and much more.