Written by Dr. Joannie DeBrito, Family Support Specialist
Making the transition from preschool to the next level can be easy or difficult, depending on the general temperament of a child and whether or not he is prepared for several changes.
Grandparents can work with their children to help preschool-age grandchildren be ready to make kindergarten a successful year.
The following suggestions will be helpful, even for children who may not have attended preschool.
The School Building
To begin with, the elementary school is likely to feel big compared to a preschool. So, if this is the case for your grandchild, it would be helpful for her to take a few tours of the school before beginning kindergarten.
Most schools offer this prior to the school year but orientation days can feel hectic because there are many parents and kids checking out the school at the same time. Try to arrange some times for your grandchild to walk through the halls and around the outside of the building when there are not so many people.
This will allow you to point out the office, gymnasium, lunch room, bathrooms (if not in the kindergarten room) playgrounds, and other points of interest.
Also, most kindergarten classes have a schedule that requires children to move fairly quickly from activity to activity in order to accommodate their short attention spans.
If your grandchild has not attended preschool or has attended a preschool that was presented with no established routines or structure, adjusting to things like taking turns, standing in line (and not having to be first every time), and moving from place to place can be difficult.
So work with your children to help your grandchildren learn some of these routines and become comfortable with moving with peers from place to place. This can be done by having play dates with friends in the neighborhood and working on these skills together.
Playing regularly with a few peers will also help them adjust to being in the same space with other kids. For children who have no siblings or have only had to share and “do life” with a sibling or two, adjusting to more than twenty other kids in the same space can be a challenge.
Managing bathroom time is also an important skill for a kindergartner. Unfortunately, some children have a lot of difficulty using public toilets at school.
However, it is important for them to learn to do so because holding their pee or poop all morning so they can wait to go at home is not good for their health and can set them up for having accidents at school.
So, help your preschooler learn to use public toilets with confidence. If you have concerns about exposure to germs in public places, teach your grandchildren to sit on their hands when they go to the bathroom and then wash their hands thoroughly after they use the toilet.
Finally, remind your child and son- or daughter-in-law that sending a child off to kindergarten will be an adjustment for them as well.
As your grandchild begins to interact with other children and teachers, he or she will change, grow, and learn some exciting new things. But, as we can all recall with our own kids, they will pick up some bad habits as well. It is best to recognize those and provide gentle reminders of better habits.
Parents will also begin to interact with more moms and dads of their childrens’ classmates and, along with some new friends and allies, there are likely to be parents they conflict with. In these cases, grandparents can be sounding boards for parents and provide encouragement to try to resolve disagreements peacefully.