Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Kindergarten Change

This weekend, Max attended a birthday day for a little girl in his class. I stuck around to meet all of the other parents and chat. I am glad as ever that I did. There's something a parent gets out of talking to other parents in the same stage of parenting as you are. You leave refreshed, new eyes on the parenting world, and knowing your child is not the only freak out there. I have been warned by several moms who have older children, that the beginning of kindergarten is a time of great change. What they didn't tell me, were specifics. Since I've spent my afternoon rubbing elbows with some fine parents experiencing the same things we are, I'll give you some insider info.

Kindergarten is a time of great change. Just not for your child, but for you and your entire family. This new venture has turned their world upside down, therefore turning yours upside down. This includes getting use to new schedules and routines. For us, it's required the younger minis getting use to having their older brother gone at school all day. Max really loves school, but is having a difficult time getting use to the routine changes and new schedule. This was true for all of the other parents I spoke with.

Think of their new "work day" like this: up until this point your child has spent his/her days playing, mostly learning while playing. Suddenly they're tossed into the school world where yes, there is still playing, singing, dancing, laughing, but they're also made to sit for longer periods of time and actually do something (in this case, we were talking about their numerous worksheets they do everyday). This alone has been a shock for Max. Up until now, I had him do his workbook or worksheet for short periods of time. Not an hour or two at a time. Max is really starting to miss his "free time" and having to be "on task" for eight hours a day is really affecting him.

There will be emotional outbursts. Picture a fourteen year old girl in place of your kindergarten son or daughter. Crying over the silliest of things will become normal. Suddenly, there's trouble listening to rules and obeying mom and dad. The parents and I came to the conclusion that this was the kid's ways of dealing with the new day to day and getting use to the new schedule.

Your child has been exposed to rules, or so I hope. Max has had to miss recess to finish worksheets because he was too busy talking or taking his sweet time with them. The other parents informed me that their child too, at some point, has had to miss something in the school day or sit in the think about it circle because they've been unable to follow the rules. This whole rules things seem to be a huge shocker and is very hard for them to remember. I'm all for rules, but I have a strong feeling schools are expecting these young kids to follow and remember too many rules. Something a young child is just not equipped to handle. Another parent gently reminded me and another mom that kindergarten is more for learning rules, learning about school, and learning how to follow orders. The kids are in a process of learning and in learning comes mistakes so embrace their think about it circle time as more learning. I actually liked this point of view, yet I still feel we expect too much from kids too young sometimes.

Don't expect your child to tell you every single detail of the day or like mine nothing at all. I'm home with my kids all day every day. I'm used to the fact that up until this point, I've known every little detail about their days. When Max gets home from school, I am beyond interested in finding out about his day. His typical responses include: "nothing" or what he ate, who puked before lunch, who puked after lunch, who peed their pants, and who pooped their pants. Harrison is the same way as Max. Apparently there was only one child in a class of nineteen who shared EVERYTHING with her mom.

Your child's teacher will (and should) talk to you. You will feel as though you've done something wrong when your child doesn't "perform" perfectly. Get over it. Kids make mistakes just the same as adults. I already know my kids are not the typical learners schools like. They do things their own way, in their own time, and every child should have the opportunity to grow this way. So take what the child's teacher tells you with a fine grain of salt, because no one knows your child better than you mommies.

There will be HUGE issues adjusting to this new schedule. For Max and a good number of kids in his class, missing naps seems to be the hardest adjustment. Missed sleep means horrid tantrums, random crying, over-eating or not eating enough, and just being overly tired. Missing sleep means everything I've told you about that much worse. Sounds fun, huh?

Talking with the other parents really made me realize I should lighten up on him at home. This is a HUGE period of adjustment for all of us and no one should expect perfection from these little kids. I never once thought of it as they're trying so hard during the day at school, it only makes sense for them to fall apart at home. From an adults stand point, kindergarten is all coloring, singing, recess, and lunch, but I've realized from chatting with other parents, it's sooo much more than that to the kids. Kindergarten, the start of their educational road, is one of the biggest adjustments your child will have to make. From parent to parent: I hope your child(ren) will have to smoothest transition possible, but please know you are not alone in thinking "what the hell is up with my kindergartner??!!?"