Kindergarten Anxiety


Starting school for the first time can be one of the most exciting and happiest days of a young child’s life. But the reality is for many young children, the beginning of school can be filled with  high stress and anxiety.  As a mother and kindergarten teacher I encountered both extremes in my children and in my students. While some were more than eager to begin others were not as enthusiastic about the sudden changes that the new school year brought upon their little lives. For these children, school symbolized a negative detachment from their parent or caregiver. In my observation many of the children with anxiety to kindergarten had parents who also felt anxious about their child attending school for the first time. Little ones are more perceptive than we realize and pick up on our emotions quite easily. Therefore, it is important as parents and teachers to address these feelings with the children in a positive manner before the first day of school so that the child is prepared for the changes that lie ahead.  Preschool teachers can work kindergarten readiness into their summer curriculum and kindergarten teachers can gradually introduce students to the school by offering select classes for the first few weeks if the school permits.  The BC Children’s Hospital offers these tips for transitioning young children into kindergarten and what to look for if you suspect your child is experiencing anxiety around attending school.

Tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Introduce children to the school year routine one to two weeks before school starts
  • Plan for transitions – getting to school, returning to school after breaks
  • Provide regular routines – morning, school, homework, bedtime
  • Hold realistic expectations that are right for your child’s age
  • Help your child identify his or her feelings – nervous, intimidated, shy
  • Ask your child if they have ideas or solutions for a particular concern
  • Show yourself identifying your own feelings, problem solving and being brave
  • Remain calm when your child is anxious
  • Help your child shift their focus to the positive aspects of school
  • Praise and reward even their small accomplishments

Consider seeking more help if your child:

  • Attempts to remain at home or with a caregiver
  • Refuses to attend school on certain days (field trips)
  • Refuses to eat in public
  • Refuses to use public bathrooms
  • Constantly worries
  • Continually seeks comfort and reassurance
  • Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events
  • Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching breath)
  • Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively.