Fred Rogers talks about
"Where would any of us be without teachers—without people who have passion for their art or their science or their craft and love it right in front of us? What would any of us do without teachers passing on to us what they know is essential about life?”
Most children are eager to learn and to join the world of the bigger kids who already go to school. But, like other big steps in life, beginning school can arouse many different feelings. Some children even imagine that being sent to school is a kind of punishment. They may wonder if they are somehow less important now because they're being "sent away,” and they may feel jealous of younger brothers or sisters who get to spend the whole day playing at home.
Children’s Misconceptions about School
Some children are afraid to go to school because they don't know how to read and work with numbers, and they think they have to know all those things before they even arrive at school. Other children worry that there won't be any time for play once they get to school, or that they won't know when it's time to go home. They may worry about what could happen if they don't listen to the teacher or what they should do if they have to go to the bathroom. It’s helpful to encourage our children to talk about their concerns or fears so we can answer their questions, correct their misconceptions and give them more realistic expectations.
We can let them know that going to school is like discovering a new world, but not a world that's not completely unfamiliar. The more we help them recognize how much school is like home, the easier the transition can be. Like home, school has places to sit, places to play, a kitchen and bathrooms, and grownups (teachers) who care about children.
A Step Forward, a Step Back
When children feel uncertain about a new experience like kindergarten, it's common for them to behave in ways that they did when they were much younger --.clinging to their caregivers more closely than usual, thumb-sucking again, or even forgetting toilet training now and then. It helps to remember that such steps backward often come before big strides forward in a child's development.
Letting Go Can Be Had for Parents
Parents, too, confront major milestones when their children enter kindergarten. It can be hard to face the fact that "my baby" is growing up. Many parents find it very difficult to "let go" those first days of school. They may even be remembering their own first days of separation from their own parents! No wonder there are so many teary-eyed mothers and fathers each year when school begins.
No matter how well things are going for your child at school, it can be very helpful to take the time to get to know your child's teacher and principal. Your child can sense when you're all working together "on the same team." If you have a good relationship with the teacher, you will probably feel more comfortable talking with him or her about your child's progress or special concerns.
Asking and Listening
As children deal with the different challenges of school, it can help them to know that we adults will gladly listen to what their day was like. Children need to know that their parents care about what happens at school and that their family is proud of the ways they're learning. There may be days, of course, when children won't want to talk at all about school, but if you've listened before, your child can trust that you will want to again when he or she is ready.
Share Your Own Experiences
Helping a child get ready for school often brings back feelings we adults had when we began school. No matter what those feelings are, if we can accept them truthfully and share them with our children, we can each have another important opportunity to grow. "I felt that way, too, when I was a child. Tell me more about what your day was like” is a wonderful way to begin to work on any new kind of growing.
Before the First Day of school:
This article is excerpted from “The Mister Rogers Parenting Book” the last book Fred Rogers worked on before his death in 2003. In this book he wanted to support parents in their most important work of parenting and to help them better understand their young children. As he wrote in the introduction to the book:
“.. if we can bring our children understanding, comfort, and hopefulness when they need this kind of support, then they are more likely to grow into adults who can find these resources within themselves later on.”