Back to School: Preparing your child and yourself for kindergarten

As the start of the new school year creeps closer, Chesterfield’s newest students – and their parents – are preparing to make the jump from home or preschool to kindergarten.

Recently, local principals took time to share their thoughts on what parents can do to ease the transition and what they should expect from their new students.

“One of the big things, I think, the separation is often harder on parents than it is on kids,” Enon Elementary School Principal Michael Crusco said. “The kids are excited.”

Parents should make sure they know how their children will be getting to school, he said. Some parents like to drop their children off at school on the first day, but “it really is best they ride their bus and get acclimated to it.”

O.B. Gates Elementary School Principal Kasey Shane said she also encourages parents to let their students ride the bus to school the first day. If parents are nervous, she suggests they follow the bus so they can see their child get off the bus at school, she said.

Crusco, who is preparing to start his fifth year as principal at Enon, also encourages parents to label their students’ belongings, such as coats, lunch boxes, etc.

“It is always amazing what kids can lose,” he said.

Parents can expect their children to be tired, he said, as they will be in class for longer periods without rest than they were in preschool. It’s important for parents to evaluate bedtimes and rest routines to ensure the students are getting enough rest, he said.

Shane, who has been the principal at Gates Elementary for five years, said parents and students should start practicing bedtime routines and eating lunch in 30 minutes before school starts.

“A couple weeks before school starts they need to start practicing with their kids,” she said. Most kids doddle over their food, she said, and over the summer parents may be less strict with bedtime routines.

For the first couple weeks of school, Crusco said, it’s helpful for parents to pack their children’s lunches. The socializing and excitement as school starts takes up some lunch time, he said, and students lose even more if they’re waiting in line for lunch.

“It’s a lot easier to just pack their lunch for a few weeks,” he said.

Also, if a parent wants to pack a snack, they should consider not packing it with their student’s lunch.

“Some kids will tell you a lot [about school]. Some kids will tell you nothing,” he said. “If just depends on your child’s personality.” But, he said, if parents have questions about how their children are doing, they should not hesitate to contact their children’s teachers.

“Sometimes little things can throw kids off,” he said, and if a teacher knows about it, it can be easily corrected.

If parents have time and want to volunteer at the school, that’s great, Crusco said, but they might want to wait a couple weeks to start so their students have time to settle in.

Attending the kindergarten orientation can be really helpful, he said. The students are able to meet their teachers, see their classrooms and even take a short bus ride, he said. Parents who have never had children in school before will likely find answers to many of their questions in the school’s handbook, he said.

Shane also encouraged parents to review “a few things, like letters and practice writing their names.” Such school-related activities will help get students excited about school, she said.

Kindergarten teachers and administrators often joke that their critical agenda is to get the new students off the bus, to class, to lunch, back on the bus, home safely and excited to come back to school the next day, Crusco said.

“A lot of those first weeks of school is really just establishing a routine,” he said. “Parents are going to see a lot of growth in their children.”

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