Why Your Kindergartener is Inconsolable

A couple of years back, as my son worked on his summer work for entering kindergarten, he announced that he was going to be creative and keep it for himself.  We explained that it would be okay if he was creative because he was exercising his imagination, but that he had to give it to the teacher when school started.  He began to cry uncontrollably stating that he wanted to keep it and didn’t want to be asked why he was creative.  He worried that his new friends would not understand and continued to cry inconsolably for almost thirty minutes.  I understood that what was really happening was that he was afraid of the coming change.  Kindergarten is an overwhelming “brand-new”, and he put all of his emotions into this one little piece of summer homework.

Little people are just like big people. In this moment, my child was acting like a grown-up starting a new job.  He was experiencing a kindergarten version of adult concerns:  “What are these people going to be like? Will I like my boss? Am I going to be able to do the work?” In those moments it is important to take a moment and hold them and tell them that it is normal to be scared.  Take that opportunity to gently tell your child what you wish someone would tell you when you are about to embark on a major change.

That day I took the opportunity to tell him about kindergarten, to tell him about starting something new, but most importantly to explain what it means to be brave.  Brave is not taking action without feeling fear. Brave is feeling scared, worried, excited, confused, and taking action anyway. Transitions and change make all of us uncertain.  It is important to hold and parent our children through them.  Most children in a brand new classroom or situation will take about 45 days to truly feel empowered and comfortable with the new change.  The task at hand is to hold their concerns, be available to discuss their new fears and pressures, and to guide them through what it means to handle change.