Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Settling into Kindergarten

The transition to kindergarten has definitely been more of an adjustment than I anticipated.  Kai has always had such an easy time with transitions.  Even last year when we threw her into Spanish school as the new kid in class and the only one in her class that didn't speak a word of Spanish, she adjusted really quickly.  The first two weeks of Spanish school were fully of tantrums and tears -- but, after that, she embraced it.

We are beyond two weeks into kindergarten -- but, it's only been in the last couple of weeks that it feels like she is beginning to adjust.  The first couple of months were hard... nightly temper tantrums, a lot of cuddling needed, and a big increase in defiant behavior.  Kai said she loved kindergarten and her teacher, but every night she would come home and fall apart.

I think it's been the adjustment to real school -- there is a lot less free time during the day.  In preschool, there are lessons and, of course, she was constantly learning the language -- but, there wasn't nearly as much desk time.  Kai isn't really one for sitting at a desk for protracted periods.  She can be extremely focused -- it's not a lack of focus -- but, she likes to work on her projects standing up, and she moves around a lot, and talks while she is working.  She talks to herself, talks to the person sitting next to her, jibber jabbers and makes up songs.  She likes to be moving.  And talking.  And doing.  All at the same time.  So, adjusting to kindergarten -- which requires a lot of listening, sitting, and working quietly -- has been hard.  And, I think the result is that Kai is at her wits end at the end of the day when we ask her to do any of her nightly chores. Homework, setting the table, getting ready for bed, taking a bath -- all taken as monumental tasks that we are asking her to take on and we're often met with flat out refusal.  Which, of course, results in consequences.  Which results in Kai rebelling against the consequence.  And she also started coming into our room every night again at midnight wanting to sleep in our room -- which, after months of sleeping in her own bed -- was a bit of a regression. It's been a challenge.

Of course, her adjustment should have been completely anticipated. She has long days.  And she's being asked to do a lot of new things and adjust to a lot of new rules.  And there are a lot of kids that she's dealing with -- both in her class, but also in her extracurricular classes and the daycare program after school.  All we have to do is take a walk in the neighborhood for me to see how big Kai's world has gotten -- we can't go more than a block or two without some other kid shouting out, "Hi, Kailey!!"  She knows everyone.  And she knows everyone because she's at the school a lot.  Interacting, listening, following rules, navigating complicated social relationships, learning new things... it's a lot.

So, we've been more patient at home.  More indulgent of screen time.  Helping her with homework.  Doing her chores with her.  Talking about what's going on.  And, Kai has been good about communicating.  She'll say, "I'm just so tired," and we know she is and that she needs a break.  So, we try to give her those breaks while also maintaining our expectations.  A bit of a balancing act.

In the last couple of weeks, though, it seems we're turning a corner.  She's been really helpful in the evenings and willingly doing her homework.  She's been wanting to play games and talk about her day.  I read the most helpful parenting tip about talking to your kids -- ,instead of asking your kid "how was your day?" which, apparently, is not how kids think and not a question they can really wrap their heads around, we say, "tell me a story from your day."  Kai LOVES to tell stories from her day.  She'll say, "ummmm... " as she thinks through the stories of the day and then blurt out, "I can tell you TWO stories..." and then she dives into stories from her day.  We are actually getting to learn a lot more about what is going on, just by changing the question.

So, I've been reading up on other tactics like that, trying to figure out how to help Kai with the transition and make sure that as she's digging into her school life, she's enjoying it.  We want her to like school.  Since the beginning, she has said she loves it and all reports from school are that she's happy... but, the nighttime struggles were making us worry.  Now, though, we're hearing the stories, she babbles on about drama and funny things that happen at school, she's happy again in the evening, she's sleeping all night in her own room... it feels like we're settling in.

I think we've just been lucky at how easy Kai has been with most transitions and, really, what we've been dealing with the last few months is probably just minor adjustment issues compared to many other kids.  But, for her, this has been a big change -- and I'm really glad to see her settling in and finding her groove.  Growing up is hard.

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