5 to 6 Years
Your child is finally ready to go to a "big school" (kindergarten) with the "big kids." He may be psyched -- but he probably wants to be Mommy's little boy at the same time. The thought of a larger building, new friends, and learning new things can trigger anxiety about leaving you. "Parents should actually be careful about using the word big too much," says Dr. Donahue. "Some children worry that this means they have to act more like grown-ups now."
What Your Child Is Thinking
"It's such a big building -- what if I get lost?" "What if I can't remember all my letters?"
Before the first day, try to take your child to meet the teacher, see the classroom, and find the bathroom. He'll be less likely to cling to your leg in terror on the first day if the school isn't brand-new to him.
If your child seems worried about the work, reassure him that although school is for learning, everyone learns at a different pace and doing what the teacher asks is the most important thing. Say, "The grown-ups are there to help you and everything is going to be okay; school is fun." Take some pressure off by letting your child regress a little at home, advises Dr. Donahue: "Children should know it's okay to still act like a little kid."
For some kids, getting familiar with a new place helps. The year before Tara Campbell started kindergarten at the Latin School of Chicago, her mom, Diana Aixala, did everything she could to expose Tara to her new school. "We went on a tour, and I took her to the school's carnival the spring before she started kindergarten," said Aixala. Tara was clingy in preschool, so Aixala wanted to make this transition a smooth one. "It took some time for her to get comfortable in her new school, but the familiarity helped a lot," she says.