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Emotional Preparation for Kindergarten

by Joann MacDonald, studioD

The move from preschool to kindergarten is a significant milestone in a child's life. As a parent, you're called upon to help your child succeed by preparing her for emotional challenges as well as the inevitable academic challenges. Partner with your child to ensure she is emotionally ready for the transition to kindergarten by encouraging skills such as independence, self-discipline, cooperation and following directions.


Your child might not handle the transition to kindergarten the same way her friend or sibling does. While one child happily skips off for a day at school, another child clings to Mom and cries. If your child tends to be anxious, particularly when she's separated from you, encourage her independence even before the school year begins. Have her spend time on a play-date, with a grandparent or with a babysitter. Invite her to talk about how she feels when she's away from you. Reassure her by saying, "I understand that you miss me. I miss you, too." Offer to do something together when she gets home. Bring her to visit her new classroom and meet her teacher before school starts. When the big day comes, try not to appear anxious and don't linger when it's time to leave. Let her know you're confident in her ability to succeed.


Kindergarten requires that children follow rules, directions and schedules. Your child will work on skills such as cooperation and taking turns. This is a process -- your child will continue to grow in self-discipline as the years progress. Help your child understand good behavior by modeling respect for others in your own interactions with him and other adults. Be patient and don't talk disrespectfully to him or others. Be clear and firm when reminding him that he must do the same. Encourage your child to say "please" and "thank you" and to stay at the dinner table until he is excused.

Getting Along

Discuss with your child how it feels to get along with others. Remind her that, "We are happy when we play nicely with our friends." Talk about the conditions that make it difficult to get along with others. Maybe she wants to use a toy that her friend also wants to play with. Brainstorm a list of family rules for getting along with others, such as "be nice," "gentle hands" and "share our toys." Encourage her to draw a picture of herself participating in a cooperative activity with friends.

Readiness Practices

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, parents can share many activities with their children to increase school readiness. Spend time playing with your child and offer lots of cuddles and hugs. Develop and follow a routine for your family, with timelines for meals, baths and naps. Talk to your child and encourage him to ask questions. Provide opportunities for him to practice social skills through playgroups or preschool activities. Praise him for behaviors that show courtesy and respect. Promote independence by assigning him simple chores, such as clearing dirty dishes and picking up toys.

About the Author

Joann MacDonald has been a professional writer for 17 years. She holds a degree in English and a Master of Arts in journalism. For more than 14 years, she was a communications specialist for a large public school system. She has also written for numerous magazines in the Greater Toronto Area. She blogs about thrift store shopping, parenting and vegetarian cooking.

Photo Credits

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