Getting Set for Kindergarten
By Annye Rothenberg Ph.D.

In a few months, it will be time for your child's first day of kindergarten. Both children and parents often feel excited and anxious about all that awaits -- big kids’ school, where children have to listen to the teacher and can’t just play and do what they want. For children who plunge into new situations easily, anticipating kindergarten is exciting. Hesitant children can be as anxious as they are excited.

It’s important to understand the goals of kindergarten. Typically, kindergarten has many rules and the expectation that children will follow directions without being reminded repeatedly. There are some choices – especially during recess – but very few compared to a play-based preschool. Kindergarten teachers are usually warm and supportive, helping children adjust to the academic demands and learn to socialize successfully. They also help youngsters become more independent, not blowing their noses for them or picking up their dropped pencils.

You can begin to ease your child’s adjustment by asking what he thinks kindergarten is like. He may picture it as very strict or as just like preschool. If he says he doesn’t know, give him some choices to help him put his impressions into words. Once you know what he thinks, you can help him get a clearer picture.

These eight strategies  can help you and your youngster get off to a good start at school..

  1. Months before school starts, and during the kindergarten year help her practice printing her name, the capital letters, and numbers at least to 10, and making the letter sounds. Work on skills like knowing her phone number and address, picking up toys and clothes, and using the toilet without reminders. Work on her social skills, language, attention span, and willingness to do less-fun things, such as cleaning up her spilled milk. Make sure your parenting approach hasn’t been so child-directed that she will resist the teacher’s directions.
  2. Since many children had less structure in the summer and more time with family, it helps to prepare them for the upcoming changes. In the last days of summer, follow the morning and bedtime schedule you’ll use after school starts. Five-year-olds need about 11 hours of sleep and six-year-olds about 10. You may have to darken his room at bedtime with window coverings in late summer. Get him used to getting dressed right away in the morning, then breakfast and teeth. Stop any morning TV. Help him practice getting his backpack and/or lunch ready.
  3. In the last weeks before school begins, if you’ve been with your child nonstop, get her together with friends, extended family, and especially her new classmates, to ease the separation.
  4. Once you know who your child’s teacher is, see if you and your child can meet the teacher and visit the room. The teacher will probably try to help your child feel comfortable and excited about kindergarten. Explain to your child how he’ll get to school, what time school ends, and where you will meet him when school ends. Show him the office and explain what the principal does and who he or she is. If you know another child in the class, try to arrange for the kids to go into class together.
  5. If you think your child needs it, remind her that the teacher is in charge and will be teaching her reading, writing, and numbers, and doing projects.
  6. At back-to-school night, pay attention to the kindergarten goals and activities. Arrange to talk to the teacher about any concerns. This will help you support the school’s expectations for your child. He needs to know you believe in his teacher. Public schools follow state curriculum standards, and private schools usually have written goals and expectations for each grade. You can find the state standards on every state’s Department of Education website. You can also ask the school for its goals for each grade.
  7. Volunteering in your child’s classroom helps you understand what she’s learning, how she’s coping, and who her new friends are.  Most schools will welcome your help, at least with holiday parties and field trips. It’s easier to talk to your child about her day if you’ve been in her class. If it’s allowed, volunteering weekly is fantastic, but even monthly is worthwhile. Don’t mention to your child any disagreements or problems you have with the school. Teachers are trained professionals who do a tremendous amount of work with our children. Be sure you show them respect and appreciation.
  8. Some children adjust easily. Others take several weeks or longer to feel comfortable. Your child may feel stressed, tired, and irritable after school, and may be defiant at home. He may need the occasional nap. Consider a lighter schedule outside school for the fall.

 Good luck to you and your kindergartner as your child begins this big kids’ learning journey.

Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and child development for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,  I Don't Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and I'm Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for preschoolers and a manual for parents. Her new series is for elementary school childen and their parents. The first book is Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me? (2015). For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to

Perfecting Parenting Press 2015