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Getting My Son (and Myself) Ready for Kindergarten

I‘ve dreaded it for 6 years. And now it is happening. My baby is going to school. And I think he’s more ready that I’ll ever be for what comes next.

Children with ADHD at school sitting around teacher.

My imaginative, frustrating, sweet, wild little boy will be starting kindergarten in a few days.

And with this milestone, all of my childhood and adolescent fears have started bubbling up in my throat. The memories of my shame and embarrassment at school, lurking always just below the surface, are breaking through. I’m an insecure mess. Why? I’m a mom with ADHD, and some wounds just never heal quite right.

Knowing that ADHD genes run strong in our family, I held my son back last year. Not only was I giving him, “the gift of time,” as the principal said… but I was also keeping him safe and close to me for a little longer. The time mostly flew by.

A couple months ago, I realized that – with school just around the corner – we both needed to start getting ready for this transition. Transitions are not a joy around here.

And I knew I needed a plan – because, without detailed and specific things to work on, the first day would roll around with nothing done. These are the steps I took to get ready without falling apart or crying myself a river.

1. Finish Paperwork Early

When the first notice about kindergarten registration circulated, I hopped online and filled out all the forms in one shot, before I could change my mind.

Rarely does anyone call me organized, but those 20+ pages of online school-registration forms were in really, really early. I even copied my tax bills, his birth certificate, and his immunization records. It was totally unlike me, and it felt grand.

During his actual evaluation I was a bundle of nerves, but having that paperwork done ahead made my life much easier. It was worth the 2 hours spent online in March to breeze through the parent section of the registration day.

2. Work With School Administrators

Do not be afraid to discuss your child’s needs with the principal or department head.

My husband and I had a chance to meet all of our school’s kindergarten teachers during registration. We had some one-on-one time with each teacher, as well as with the principal.

During our screening session, I was blunt with the principal and told her that one particular teacher would not be a good fit for my son, and that I would prefer one of the others.

Things I did not do: insult any teacher, name the alternative teacher I did want, or say anything negative. I simply told the principal that I felt their personalities would not mesh.

Guess what? I got the teacher I wanted.

3. Talk About School Expectations

I began discussing expectations for kindergarten a year ago, pretty much as soon as I made the decision to hold him back. Clear communication and expectations are vitally important for kids with ADHD; we make this an ongoing topic of conversation in our home.

When my son misbehaves or acts out inappropriately in his pre-k room, we talk about how the same behavior might be handled in school. We also talk about how our behavior affects our friends and the people around us.

I actually role-play with him and practice positive ways to interact and express our feelings. My son now understands that adults (and teachers) are to be respected, even when he feels frustrated or angry.

4. Take a Tour

Visiting the school ahead of time has helped me my son to become comfortable with the building and classroom. We were given three separate opportunities to see the inside of the building, and we took all of them. The librarian actually read a story to make the children more comfortable.

By the time we left after our second visit, my son was super excited about his new school. Now he points it out whenever we drive through the neighborhood, “Look, there is my new school!”

5. Stay Positive

My husband and I say only positive things about school and learning. No matter how frustrated my son gets with any academic task, I never say anything negative about his teacher or school in front of him.

In order for him to transition well, I also have to keep my own emotions in check. Whatever my fears about his behavior or academic readiness, I will not let my own insecurities hold him back.

He is growing up. He is riding the bus. (sniffle) He is bursting with energy and enthusiasm for learning and life. All I can do is get out of the way, take lots of photos, and then give myself a quiet little pat on the back.

You’ve done good, momma.