First day of Kindergarten

Making it easy for children and parents

For most kids the first day of kindergarten is an exciting time. But the transition can also be worrisome. It's a big step for children and their parents.  

"Even kids who have been through pre-school know that kindergarten is an entirely different experience," says Pauline Wallin, Ph.D., a licensed psycholgist in Camp Hill, PA.  "They see references to kindergarten on TV and listen to other family members talk about it. Because young children don't process information in the same way adults do, they may misinterpret what they see and hear, and start worrying about the first day of school."

Fortunately there are simple things that parents can do to help make the first day of kindergarten easy and fun. The key ingredients are managing your own anxiety, and communicating in a way that fits with your child's level of intellectual and emotional development.

The Pennsylvania Psychological Association recommends the following:

Manage your own anxiety. Focus on your child's opportunities for learning and for making new friends. If you're one of those parents who constantly worries about safety, consider that accidents at school are far fewer than those at home. Also, keep in mind that it's common for young children to miss their parents, and most will quickly adapt. Being calm yourself can go a long way in easing any anxiety that your child might have about going to school.

Next, help your child mentally prepare. Kids at this age think in very concrete terms. Therefore, when you talk to them about kindergarten be factual. Discuss where they will be, what they'll see, and what they'll do.  For example:

  • Take your child to the school prior to the first official day. If possible, arrange to visit the kindergarten classroom and to meet the teacher. Point out the location of the bathroom.
  • Mention familiar things your child may find at school, such as picture books and brand new markers and crayons. Describe typical situations, such as how everyone lines up to go outside.
  • If your child will be riding on the school bus, talk about what it looks like inside and what to do when it arrives at the school. You can even play "school bus" together by arranging a few chairs in rows.
  • To help your child feel socially connected, arrange play dates with peers who will be starting kindergarten at the same school.

Avoid saying anything that might arouse anxiety in your child, such as "I'll miss you when you go to school."

Don't give reassurances unless your child asks for it. Unsolicited advice like, "If the big kids start fighting with you, tell the teacher right away," can make kids more apprehensive, especially if the possibility of such events never occurred to them.

"Above all," recommends Dr. Wallin, "relax. The first day of kindergarten does not predict future school experience. Even if it doesn't go that well, most kids recover quite quickly."

To learn more about mind/body health, visit the Pennsylvania Psychological Association's website,                          

The Pennsylvania Psychological Association is a member-driven organization dedicated to promoting and advancing psychology in Pennsylvania, advocating for public access to psychological services, and enhancing multiple dimensions of human welfare while supporting the development of competent and ethical psychologists. Our mission is to educate, update and inform the public and our membership on cutting-edge psychological theory and practice through training activities and public policy initiatives.