If you or someone you know has recently sent their first child off to kindergarten you may have noticed that the (mostly) chill mothers of preschoolers often transform into a ball of worry when their first child starts elementary school. I did not think I was going to be one of those moms since I’ve never been one to get anxious or sentimental about childhood milestones, but to my surprise, I joined the club of worried first-time kindergarten moms when the school year approached. I remember laying awake at night worried my kid would somehow get lost in the building and not know how to make it back to her classroom. Suddenly, I was buying lice spray for my daughter’s hair and spending hours researching lunch boxes.
On Meet the Teacher Night the “new kid” feelings crept in and made me feel very lost and insecure. It seemed like everyone else understood all of the things I had questions about, like the car line, lunch, and which supplies should be labeled and which shouldn’t. Nobody told me in advance about the check I was supposed to bring that night for class parties or the $85 enrollment fee in the online parent portal (I didn’t know about that until October!). I really had no chill when my daughter started kindergarten and neither did most of my friends.
Here are some of the tips I can give you first-time kindergarten moms adjusting to the transition to elementary school. Maybe they can help you avoid becoming the ball of nerves I was two years ago:
- Talk to your neighbors: My neighbors could tell me all about the teachers, answer my many questions about school events and routines, and even sent their kids over to help my daughter walk to and from school in the early weeks. We are starting second grade, and I still text my neighbors with questions!
- Don’t be afraid to ask: Don’t worry about being “that mom” just because you e-mail the teacher with seemingly small questions! Sometimes teachers forget that something that seems routine is new, especially if it’s your first kid. A simple call to the school secretary can answer all kinds of questions about drop off, pick up, lunch accounts, schedules, etc.
- Expect behavior changes: The first few weeks, and likely the first quarter of the school year, are a HUGE adjustment period. Expect your kid to be tired, cranky, and probably ravenously hungry at the end of the day. Let them run around outside, give them all the after-school snacks, and don’t pester them with 20 questions about their day when they walk in the door.
- It’s okay to say “not this year”: The pressure to put your kid in sports, scouts, dance, and sign up for the PTA and the room mom and all the things gets to many families. I saw so many friends exhaust and over-schedule themselves that first year. My daughter enjoyed dance, but by Thursday nights she was DONE and each week became a battle of wills to get her dressed and ready and fed and out the door. So we quit at the end of that first semester, and we were all much happier. The next year, she had the stamina to take piano and dance in the evenings without the mega meltdowns we saw in kindergarten.
- Lunch is just one of three meals: I have seen many moms obsess about how much their kids eat in the cafeteria. By 4 pm they probably aren’t going to remember what they ate so getting all the details out of them is a lost cause. You may need to let go of some of the rigidity and control you have about food and your kids. (Join this Facebook group run by a dietician, which has helped me SO much in this area). Remember that lunch is not a competition for who can make the cutest bento box meal. Sending a cute illustrated note in your kid’s lunch box each day is great but not the hallmark of a “good mom.” Do what works for your family and what makes lunch an enjoyable meal for your child. Sometimes they will talk more than they eat, and that’s very normal. Load them up with a great breakfast, after school snacks, and dinner, and don’t fixate too much on what they ate (or didn’t) at lunch.
- Don’t feel guilty: One thing I see a lot of kindergarten parents feel guilty about is the amount of time they can volunteer at their child’s school. I had a baby at home so helping in the classroom wasn’t realistic for me. I did what I could and if I couldn’t help with (or even attend) a class party I tried not to sweat it. Again, it’s okay to say “not this time” or “not this year.” There are so many years of school ahead!
I can now easily spot the frenzied first-time kindergarten moms when we are back-to-school shopping. They’re the ones in the paper goods aisle obsessively looking for the tissue box with the exact number of tissues requested on the supply list. I know, because I was that mom. Take a deep breath kindergarten moms, you’re going to make it through this transition, and next year you’ll probably feel like a pro.