Dear Dr. Day Care,
My husband and I have four children- three daughters and our youngest son. Our oldest daughter is eleven and our son is five years old. He is entering kindergarten this year and is refusing to go to school. I asked him why and he said it is because his sisters told him kindergarten is for babies and he isn’t a baby! What should I do?
Signed, Baby Boy’s Mom
Dear Baby Boy’s Mom,
Explain to your son that kindergarten is not for babies. Let him know that babies are only months old and he is five years old. Reassure him that he will be learning many concepts such as the alphabet, numbers, how to write his name and to learn how to read. Explain concepts that he already knows and concepts that he does not yet know, to highlight what he has already achieved and some of the skills that he will learn.
Continue to ask him more questions about his understanding of being a kindergarten student and his underlying concerns will be revealed. The key is to listen to your child’s needs and redefine his actual concerns. When the first whispers of the start of school is in the air (through conversations your children are having at home, or commercials on television and radio), many children become apprehensive of a new and unfamiliar environment.
Throughout my years of working with school age children, I have noticed many children will familiar concerns. One concern could be about who the new teacher will be when school begins. Get your family involved, explain to your daughter that their brother is worried about who his teacher will be and ask his sisters to explain, from a positive prospective, their knowledge of their previous kindergarten teachers. Another concern could be whether the school bus bring me home or how to get the after school day care program. Explain in detail about riding on a bus and what to do if he becomes worried. An example would be asking his teacher a question or talk to the bus monitor. Have a backup letter in his back pack that explains all the details of where he lives and/ or where his after school day care program is located with telephone numbers in case of a mix up. Write his teacher a note to let her know of his concerns and this will keep everyone up- to-date of the situation.
Reading books to your son about attending the first day of school can be very helpful. Books can not only address some concerns, but more importantly eliminate the concerns and worries children might experience beforehand. I wrote a children’s book, Edgar Graduates, that you could read together- it details the milestones Edgar has achieved prior to starting kindergarten and outlines the things he may achieve in the future. By reading books about starting kindergarten, you can help alleviate some of his fears or apprehensions.
Most importantly, your son will pick up your feelings towards him going to school for the first time! A positive attitude will help ensure his safe transition to the beginning of his school career.
Mary Ann Shallcross Smith
President, Dr. Day Care