In the last edition of Tribuna, I wrote about how to help prepare your child for kindergarten. In this edition, I am focusing on developing your child’s social, emotional and self-help skills. These skills are perhaps the most important for success in school. Students who have high self-esteem and a positive self-image, combined with excellent self-help skills, soar in school.
Helping your child develop emotional skills includes self-regulation or the ability to attend and listen to activities, and to control thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Children with good self-regulation know how to act when they are upset. As Ellen Galinsky, the president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute and the author of Mind in the Making, would say: “A child who stops playing and begins cleaning up when asked or spontaneously shares a toy with a classmate, has regulated thoughts, emotions and behaviors” (Young Child, July 2011, p. 46). Children need help to be able to master this complex process with the help of their parents. When children act out, parents can best help work through the issue by talking through it with them, role modeling appropriate behavior and telling them they are safe and you are proud of their success.
Once your child has had a lot of practice with self-regulation you will find your child will be excited about having play dates. Play dates give children more experience playing and sharing with other children as well as beginning to notice what is happening around them by developing an appreciation for others. They begin to understand how their friends are feeling, when someone is sad or hurt and how to show empathy towards one another. Play dates encourage children to learn about other families’ lifestyles, customs and languages.
Good self-help skills are necessary for your child to be able to ask for help, to get his or her needs taken care of and to help your child feel good about his or her appearance. The four skills are: hygiene and toileting, feeding, dressing and grooming, and chores and caring for their own toys. Teach children to self-toilet. Being able to wipe their behinds is really important in a school environment. Daily brushing of their teeth and combing their hair is important to feeling good about themselves. Encourage children to feed themselves with silverware and to be able to open their own containers and Ziploc bags. These are skills necessary for kindergarten so that children can eat independently. Have your child dress in clothes that are easy to take on and off; children need to be able to zip their own jacket, put on their boots and tuck in their shirts. Lastly, children who learn at an early age to pick-up their toys and to put them where they belong will develop organization skills that will last them a lifetime.
Enjoy getting your child ready for kindergarten. It is a very special time in a child’s life and should be enjoyed by the whole family.
Anne E. Mead, M. Ed., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.