A Story of Kindergarten Anxiety

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A few weeks ago, my silly, sweet, and rambunctious five-year-old started kindergarten. She was looking forward to it for a long time. Her new school is in our neighborhood and right next to our favorite park, so she was familiar and knew it was a school for big kids. She couldn’t wait!

Then we got to day three and she didn’t want to go anymore. She got ready that morning no problem, but the second we were in the drop-off line she told me she didn’t want to go anymore and asked to go home. I was really caught off guard as she genuinely seemed to enjoy it the first two days of school, and she loves going anywhere that isn’t home. 

I tried to ease her mind and let her know that it was okay to be scared. Then I tried to pry a little more to see what was really going on. I asked the usual questions: Was someone mean to you? Did something scare you? Do I need to call the principal? The answers were all no.

Finally, just before we were at the curb, she told me she didn’t like walking in by herself because she didn’t know how to find her classroom. I briefly reminded her that the adults at school were there to help and that she could ask one of them if she didn’t know where to go. Then I told her she’s brave and can do it, even though she’s scared. She got out of the car and made her way in with no tears, but I know she wasn’t happy about it. 

My daughter is generally pretty chill, but she does have a few fears that are very real. One is the doctor, which we’ve been able to work through with a great pediatrician and a very understanding dentist. The other is costumed characters like Cocky, Mason (Fireflies), and most definitely Santa. These fears we’ve managed by mostly avoiding them, and not forcing her to talk to anyone she isn’t comfortable with. We also talk a lot about how the doctor, dentist, and costumed characters can be friends and are very friendly.  

This specific kindergarten anxiety was not expected, as I didn’t think she would be afraid to walk into a building she’d been longing to go inside for so long.

I started to do the mom thing and search for ways to help my daughter. I also contacted her teacher as well. Her teacher assured me that once my daughter was in the classroom, she was just fine and very engaged. She also took my daughter on the route to her room one-on-one that day to ensure she was comfortable going in. I also was assured that teachers and staff are lining the halls to ensure no one is ever lost in the morning. My daughter was just a bit too shy to ask for help directly. 

I found a few resources online that helped me find the right words to ease my daughter’s fears while also validating her feelings and allowing space for growth. If there’s one thing I’ve learned parenting a slightly anxious kid, it’s that the validation of fear, whether we adults think it’s rational or not, is key to making any steps toward progress. A couple of resources I found helpful are: Dr. Becky and The Mom Psychologist. Both are clinical psychologists that focus on kids and parents and have wonderful free and paid resources. 

When I picked my daughter up that afternoon, she came bouncing to the car with not a care in the world. She told me she found her class, but her body was shaking while she was walking. Poor girl was really scared! However, she also said “I can’t believe I found my room, Mommy. I didn’t know I was so brave!” I may have teared up a bit. It assured me that even though my child is a bit anxious, she is also resilient and willing to push through that anxiety to do the things she wants to do.

We talk daily now about how to find her room, and I check in more often to ease any other anxieties. She is brave, strong, and a bit anxious, but she’s going to rock kindergarten!

What has kindergarten been like for your child?

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Lisa is a transplant from the Midwest. She was born and raised in Kansas (yes, she has seen a tornado) and spent a few years in Ohio before moving to South Carolina in 2014. She holds a degree in Biology and works as a research assistant at the USC School of Medicine. Her career in science spans 11 years and she can't imagine a job anywhere else. She has also been married to her college sweetheart for 11 years. He is a professor at USC, so they are Gamecock fans by default. They are proud parents to a spunky 2.5 year old girl who keeps them on their toes. As a family, they enjoy being outside in the wonderful southern sun, gardening, playing tennis, and going to the beach. They also are parents to 2 fur babies who still aren't sure about their little sister.

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