Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Parents' Kindergarten Anxiety Is Normal

MU expert offers tips to make kindergarten transition successful for both parent and child

July 24, 2008

Story Contact:  Kelsey Jackson, (573)882-8353,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The school supplies have been purchased, the backpacks have been packed, but the parents still wonder if their child is ready to start kindergarten. A University of Missouri expert says that parents’ kindergarten anxiety is natural, but focusing too much on anxiety can sometimes affect how well children transition on their first day.

“Starting kindergarten is a major developmental milestone, and not surprisingly, it is common for parents and children to feel some apprehension about this change in their lives,” said Keith Herman, associate professor in the MU College of Education and co-director of the Missouri Prevention Center. “Often, anxiety in children reflects what parents are feeling. Children are looking for predictability, and the more the parents act calmly and confidently, the more likely the child will transition successfully.”

Herman offers these additional tips for parents to ease the transition:
• Expect change and challenges along the way.
• Prepare your child for what to expect on the first day. If possible, practice what the first day will be like. Visit the school and classroom with your child and meet the teacher before the first day.
• Maintain family routines and establish a schedule with regular bedtimes and wake-up times.
• Spend time getting to know the teacher before the first day, and keep the lines of communication open.
• Be encouraging, and let your child know they are ready for the first day.
• Find out what makes your child feel comfortable.
• Focus on rewarding “brave” behavior with praise and attention.
• For children who are very apprehensive, focus on small steps and consider giving an after-school reward for their brave behaviors like engaging in a fun activity, having a special dinner, and visiting a preferred place.
• Don’t linger at the school on the first day.

“Parents need to remind themselves that all parents and all children go through this,” Herman said. “Within in a few weeks, the vast majority of children and parents will have adjusted to their new lives and their first day worries will be a thing of the past.”

If things don’t go well the first day, Herman urges parents to be optimistic about the second day. Don’t overemphasize a bad day, Herman said. Parents should remind themselves that they don’t control everything, and each child will respond to their first day differently. Some parents and children may need extra support at this time. There are many resources for those who continue to struggle with the transition. In some cases, Herman suggests seeking support from school professionals or from child and parent experts in the community.