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Preparing Your Preschooler for Kindergarten

Five is an age of wonder and change. For most five year olds, the concept of the future does not extend too far forward. A young child is focused on day-to-day experiences. Consider the following points for helping your preschooler make the an easy transition to kindergarten:

  • Rituals are invaluable to your child's adjustment, whether it is a family move, a graduation or some other type of life transition. A graduation party marks the end of one chapter in life's journey. A farewell party with your preschooler's friends allows for celebration of this period, honoring the growth of the preschool experience, before moving on to the next level.

  • Prepare your preschooler for saying "good-bye" to current friendships, but not too far in advance. While some children may "tune out" information before they are ready to hear it, others may become overly worried about their future if information is given too far ahead. One month can seem like an eternity to a child of this age. While you may broach the subject of leaving, refrain from elaborating on the details of this transition more than a couple of weeks before school starts.

  • Maintain some your child's old friendships through the transition. Consider the possibility of inviting old friends over for birthday parties or future play dates for a sense of continuity. Encourage sharing with friends about the different schools they will each attend in the fall. Talking about the new experiences they are about to embark upon eases the transition. The change can become a shared "rite of passage", rather than a lonely journey.

  • Establish excitement about the upcoming classroom experience by taking a trip to the primary school your child will be attending. After graduation rituals, familiarize your preschooler with a concrete example of the kind of experience that lies ahead. Create a positive experience for your preschooler by introducing the playground and showing examples of what will be learned at school.

    Popular shows like Sesame Street or one of the many educational computer games for kindergartners can help to build your child's excitement and readiness for learning.

  • Make room for feelings! Your child needs to be able to release tears and express "negative" feelings, too. "Easing" the transition does not mean ignoring necessary emotional pain that accompanies growth.
Expect sadness and honor its rightful expression. Normal mourning helps your child adjust to his loss and creates resiliency in dealing with changes that are an inevitable part of his future. This may be the first life passage your child later recalls, but it will not be his last. After all, life's tapestry is replete with transitions in which we must say "good-bye" in order to say "hello."


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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