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Overwhelmed in Kindergarten

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My son, who will turn 5 in a few days, just went through kindergarten roundup. He scored an 83 on his readiness test, but I was told the other children overwhelmed him. My son has never been to preschool or day care -- he has been with me at home from day one. While I don't want to send him to kindergarten overwhelmed, will another year of waiting really change his emotional makeup?

A: When young children are exposed to new experiences, it's perfectly normal for them to feel shy and even overwhelmed. Imagine what it was like for your son to be tested by strangers and at the same time to meet and be expected to interact with a group of unknown children.

Has your son had many opportunities to play with children his age? Has he been involved in group activities? He'll need a great number of these experiences in order to handle kindergarten. In fact, good social skills are absolutely vital to success in school at all grade levels.

Keeping your son home next year will not help him develop the skills needed to get along with other children. He needs to learn these skills through playing frequently with children his age. Embark immediately on a plan that will help him feel at home with his peers.

If your son is already comfortable playing with one or two children his age, it's time to introduce him gradually to group activities. Otherwise, concentrate first on giving him the opportunity to play with just one child in your home. The best playmate would be someone who would be in his kindergarten class.

Introduce your son to group activities in which you and/or a friend can also participate to give him confidence -- library story hours are a good choice. Then build upon this by having him take part in such activities as karate or swimming lessons so he will also learn to take directions from adults. Once he becomes more comfortable with children his age, consider enrolling him in a preschool, Sunday school, sports, or park program this summer.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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