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Mendo Lake Family Life

The First-Day-of-Kindergarten Freak Out

By Kerrie McLoughlin

My mom always tells me she was a mess when she dropped me off for my first day of kindergarten. She had to go out to breakfast and cry. While it wasn’t a big deal for me, some kids do experience anxiety on opening day of kindergarten, and it’s entirely normal. Letting go of your child’s hand might be difficult for you, too. But it’s the first step toward letting her or him fly on her or his own, and it’s an important milestone. Here are some real-mom tips to make it easier on both of you.

Visit the school. Steph Dalrymple, mom of one, suggests visiting the inside of the school sometime before the first day. If the school is hosting a kindergarten intro session for new students—an experience created just for the purpose of getting kids familiar with the school, classroom, teachers, and their peers—don’t skip it. Also, “Play at the school playground a few times over the summer. It helps make it seem fun and familiar. Let them take ownership of ‘their’ school,” offers mom Shari Medini.

Find some friends. You should be able to discover some other kids in the neighborhood for your kid to meet before school starts. Otherwise, talk about what it’s going to be like to make new friends at school and what it means to be a good friend.

Go shopping. Kitty Fulks, mom of seven, says, “Take them shopping for school supplies and for a few new outfits.” Back-to-school shopping is very important to get kids excited for the first day. A new backpack, water bottle, lunch box, shoes, and nap blanket might calm some fears.

Talk about it. Reading some books about kindergarten and school is a great way to get kids excited, offers Cathie Maschler, mom of four. Check out On the First Day of Kindergarten by Tish Rabe (HarperCollins, 2016), and The 12 Days of Kindergarten by Jenna Lettice (Random House, 2017).

Hit the high notes. Tell your kid about fun school situations, such as field trips, recess, assemblies, substitute teachers, new friends, physical education, art, music, and lunchtime. Mom Gina Kennedy suggests even calling the playground a “park,” since it really is like a park at the school.

Set it up. Laying out clothes the night before, planning a special breakfast, and packing a fabulous lunch will go a long way toward kicking off a great day.
Watch your emotions. As the first day approaches, express excitement even if you are anxious, and don’t talk about how much you’re going to miss your kid in front of her or him.

Don’t linger. “It’s easier if the kids can walk away from you [rather] than you leaving them. So don’t go into the classroom and hover. Walk them into school then let them go, or go to the classroom then [let them] go in and don’t linger. It’s like sneaking out when you have a babysitter,” suggests mom of four Tresa McAlhaney.

Wrap it up. Set up a routine for the end of each school day that your child can look forward to. Even a daily simple snack and a chat about the day will help the child stay positive and confident throughout the school year. 

Kerrie McLoughlin is the mom of five. Find her at