January 19, 2012

Noticing Changes in Your Five-Year-Old?

Is she clingy and doesn't want to be separated from you?

Are you seeing regressive behaviors such as toileting accidents or more crying?

Has he told you he wants to stay at preschool and not go to kindergarten?

Before I became a child therapist I taught Pre-K and each school year, around the end of January or early February, parents would come to me wondering why their child was exhibiting these regressive behaviors and seeking advice on what to do about them.  Even now, as a child therapist, parents express the same concerns this time of year about their five year olds.

I validate parents concerns and the frustration they’re feeling and then I ask one simple question. “Have you recently registered your five year old for kindergarten?”  The answer is usually "Yes!"

Going to kindergarten is a big transition for a five year old. Everyone is telling them how grown up they are and talking non-stop about how great it will be to go to kindergarten. The child feels torn. They're excited to be growing up but they're also anxious and apprehensive about leaving preschool and all the familiarities they're grown accustomed to.

It's a big step for a five year old and as parents you can help make that transition less stressful. When you see the above mentioned behaviors take a few minutes to give your child an extra hug and ask them if they're feeling sad or scared about leaving preschool and going to kindergarten. Validate what they’re feeling and offer helpful suggestions such as driving by the new school and taking a photo of them standing in front of it. 
 Spend some time on the school playground on the weekend or at the end of the school day. Mark on the calendar the day your child will be going to the school for a visit or kindergarten screening. Don’t forget to locate the school restroom during the visit because that’s a big concern for a soon to be kindergartener.

I encourage parents to put less emphasis on growing up and more on making the transition to kindergarten easier. It will help your child feel less anxious and the regressive behaviors will gradually disappear.

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