“My daughter will be going to preschool in the fall and I can’t stop thinking about what I should be doing to get her ready for preschool and for kindergarten (and beyond) right around the corner.” - Stephane, Garden City
To be sure, there are lots of major developmental milestones before school ages, but the idea of the first day of school can be filled with pressure for parents (and a whole range of emotions for our children).
When a child arrives for the first day of kindergarten, they will be expected to cooperate, follow directions, exhibit self-control, work independently and get along with their classmates and teacher. A child who is able to manage their feelings and behavior will be able to focus attention on learning and exploration.
Does a parent need to do everything possible (in utero Bach, Latin and ABC’s)? It turns out the answer is not complicated/expensive – it comes back to the natural instincts of a parent.
A parent’s natural tendency to model positive – social/emotional – behavior and supply a positive environment makes their children more likely to have a successful school experience. These are parents who interact with their children affectionately; show consideration for their feelings, desires and needs; express interest in their daily activities; respect their viewpoints; express pride in their accomplishments; and provide encouragement and support during times of stress.
Being human, parents will not be perfect and there will be times when real life can distract them from these natural tendencies, and that’s okay. We should really be striving for “good enough" – a pattern of reliability, security and presence – not perfection.
While not trying to prescribe specific parental behavior, I do want to discuss what I see as the three critical 'C's when it comes to social and emotional growth (and school readiness):Confidence, self-control and communication.
Confidence grows when children have opportunities to solve problems. We want to focus on and praise the steps your child has taken to reach a goal as compared to focusing just on the outcome which can make a child feel as if they are only valued when they are successful.
Self-control is the ability to manage emotions, desires, and actions. A child with self-control is more likely to be able to comply with rules, leading to success in school. To foster self-control, allow children to experience the positive and negative consequences of their actions. If a child’s actions might harm them or others, then adults must step in immediately to send a clear message that this is a safe environment for everyone.
Strong communication skills include the abilities to listen, question, understand and respond to the message being conveyed. Children who can express themselves are also more likely to feel a sense of self-worth and build social and emotional skills – leading to more friendships, better group interactions. The best way to help children boost their communication skills is to talk with them – this means listening, responding and showing a genuine interest in what they have to say.
When children begin kindergarten with strong social-emotional competence, they are more likely to be successful at transitioning into school, develop positive attitudes about school and have higher grades and achievement in elementary school.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Editor's Note: The opinions in this article are those of Parents “R” Talking. The opinions are not medical advice. Always consult your pediatrician about any changes you are contemplating.)