It’s very common for children to experience first day kindergarten anxiety.
Picture what it must be like to suddenly leave the familiar comfort of home and be dropped into an unknown environment. A place where everyone and everything is new. Where there are new routines and new expectations But most importantly, where Mommy and Daddy are not around to reassure you and make you feel better. No wonder the first few days of kindergarten can be fraught with tears and trauma for many children and even for some parents.
Making it Easier
Here are few tips that can help to make it easier for parents and teachers, as well as some advice to keep in mind for a child’s first days of kindergarten.
Don’t overplay the milestone.
Highlighting the first day of kindergarten as a really big deal can make kids more nervous than they already are. Instead, try to compare the Nursery to familiar and well-known situations such as a familly gathering, or play dates at the park with friends. Explain that kindergarten will be a place for making new friends and having fun, just like they may have done with groups of kids before.
Connect school to home.
Try to arrange a casual meeting with teachers before the start of the Nursery. Let your child draw a nice card for his/her new teacher. Visit the Nursery with your child, take photos of the classroom, the payground… so that you can talk about and share these at home with family and friends. This can help your child feel more connected to their home life while at school. Similarly, having a copy of the daily activities schedule and talking to your child about his day at school can help bring school into the home.
Read a book together about starting school.
Reading about other children who might have fears and anxiety about starting school may be comforting to kids who are experiencing the same feelings. You can also try to share your first day at school (if it’s not too traumatising for either of you).
Try to minimise your own anxiety.
Just as it’s perfectly normal for your child to feel some anxiety on the first days of kindergarten, it’s absolutely normal for you too to feel anxious when you see your child upset. And it’s also understandable that you may experience some frustration when you see other children playing happily and your child is still clinging to you.
Here are some important things for you to remember: Your child will adjust to his new classroom eventually. It may take some kids a bit longer than others, but the fact is that it will happen, especially if you respond with understanding and patience and keep your eyes on the prize – a happy child who loves going to school and is eager to see his friends there (it will happen, Insha’Allah!) Making tons of ‘duas’ and praying ‘Istikhara’ will take you a long way, Insha’Allah, when it comes to managing your own separation anxiety.
Don’t stay too long.
I know you might have cleared the day so you can stay with your little one but the best is to reassure your child that you will be back, Insha’Allah, and say a quick salam. Lingering around will only make it more difficult for your child to see you go. The child will cry harder the next time because it will be seen as an effective way to get you to stay. As heart-wrenching as it may be for you to walk away while your child is crying, chances are that your little one will be playing happily soon after you are out of sight. But don’t sneak out as this may undermine your child’s trust and could worsen the separation anxiety.
Identify his anxiety.
What exactly is your child afraid of? Talk to your child and find out what he/she is worried about. Is it the concern that you won’t return? Is it being afraid that someone will be mean to him/her? Or is it not knowing where the bathroom is or not knowing what is supposed to be done in such a situation. Once you establish what the child’s specific fears are you will be able to better address these concerns and work with your child and his teacher to find ways to handle them. Most importantly, remind your child that Allah (swt) will always be with him/her, so he/she is not really alone.
Trust the teachers.
Your child will hardly be the only one in the classroom who experiences the separation anxiety, nor be the first one the teachers have had to comfort after mom or dad are gone. Experienced teachers will be ready with morning routines, nasheeds, games, and other fun activities to get kids into the swing of things while they adjust to their new surroundings.
Send along a favourite comfort object.
If your child has a favourite toy – a doll or a car – ask your child’s teacher if you can send it along for the first days (don’t forget to label it with your Kid’s Name). In many cases, just having a favourite comfort object nearby can give kids a sense of security.
Don’t put a time limit on how long it should take.
For some kids, first day kindergarten anxiety may not last beyond a few days if it happens at all. For others, tears and school fears may go on for weeks. Just as each child has his own individual set of experiences and personality and anxiety that may be influencing his feelings about starting school, the time it takes to adjust to school will vary from one child to another; so be patient, have faith in Allah, and again, make duas.
Before you know it, your reluctant kindergartener will look forward to seeing his friends at school and participating in the activities and games in class, then that day, Insha’Allah, you will have to deal with the “I don’t want to leave the Nursery” tears… That, we will talk about later, Insha’Allah.