Most of us know what an important milestone kindergarten is for children — but it's just as important a milestone for parents. Whether it's your first time as a kindergarten parent, or it's your last child on his way to kindergarten, the process doesn't get any less exciting or nerve-wracking. So if you're a parent getting your child ready for kindergarten, there are probably many questions running through your mind right now. Is your child going to enjoy it? Are they going to make friends easily? How long is it going to take them to get used to kindergarten? To put the minds of worried parents at ease, we talked to some experts to find out how long it might take your child to get used to kindergarten, and ways you can help their transition.
How long does it usually take for kids to adjust to kindergarten?
Every child is unique, so how long it takes for them to get used to this big transition very much depends on who your child is. "The amount of time it takes for kids to adjust to kindergarten varies depending on their personality, but most kids will start to adjust within the first few days and should be feeling pretty confident in their routines within a few weeks," Sarah Miller, a former teacher with a degree in education and experience teaching kindergarteners, and blogger at Homeschooling4Him, tells POPSUGAR.
Some kids will be starting kindergarten remotely or rotating between in-person and virtual learning this school year, which is sure to affect how long their transition is going to take as well. "In remote learning, it is likely that students are going to take far longer to adjust as routines, activities, and assignments will be more disconnected from the usual tactile engagement of being in the classroom," Meredith Essalat, principal of a K-8 school in San Francisco and author of The Overly Honest Teacher, tells POPSUGAR. "For in-person learning, the adjustment can be right away for students who have already acclimated to the more traditional classroom environment in pre-K, and a bit longer for students who come from less structured learning environments."
What are some signs that show they're beginning to adjust to kindergarten?
If your child is no longer sad about leaving you for school in the morning, that is a great sign that they're getting used to kindergarten, according to Essalat. "Beyond that, students who begin to enter their classroom and know exactly the steps needed to be completed when they arrive (i.e. hang up their backpack, put their water bottle away, find their spot on the carpet, go to a station for a morning brain boost activity, etc.) show kinder-readiness," she says. This applies in a homeschool setting as well.
If you're looking for ways to see if your child is adjusting to kindergarten or not, Miller suggests you take some time to observe your child in class. "Try to come a few minutes early to pick up your child and watch what they are doing without being seen. You can also ask your child about their day and listen to their reply," she says. "If your child is shy and doesn't want to talk about it, you can try role playing with stuffed animals or puppets to help your child feel more confident in sharing their stories."
What are things you can do at home to help kids adjust to kindergarten?
While it depends on your child, there are still ways you can help smoothen the process. "One of the biggest things that you can do as a parent to help your child is to be careful about your own attitude towards the transition," says Miller. "Your child looks to you to see how to respond in new situations. If you are excited for this new opportunity for your child, they will be more likely to be excited too."
It would also be beneficial for you to start prepping for kindergarten even before it starts. "You can also prepare your child for the transition beforehand. Talk about what will happen at school and what your child will do during the day," says Miller. "Schedule a visit to meet the teacher or a play date with a new classmate if safe. Visit the school, find your child's new classroom, and spend some time playing on the playground if your child is heading back to campus. This will help make your child feel more comfortable on the first day." If your child is not going to physical kindergarten, then you can help them get used to a routine an in-person kindergarten would provide by setting up a schedule at home, and communicating them about what that schedule is, according to Essalat.
What are some things you can do if your child is not showing signs of adjustment?
So it's been some time and your child's still not warming up to the idea of kindergarten . . . now what? The first step is talking to their teacher. "Teachers have a wealth of strategies that they implement in the classroom that can easily be applied at home. If they are having a hard time with their attachment to their parents, perhaps there is a plan that can be hatched with their teacher about slowly scaffolding away time with mom or dad in the classroom," says Essalat. "If they are not responding well to transitions, finding ways to increase their opportunities for transitioning from one thing to another at home will help it feel less foreign. Creating digital play dates with new classmates can help ease any sense of social anxiety that they might be struggling with. And, of course, communicating with their pediatrician is never a bad idea."