Dear Dr. Rene,
My daughter started Kindergarten last week, and by Friday she was just exhausted. She is a good sleeper. What can we do?
mom of two, ages five and two-and-a-half
Kindergarten can be exhausting! For many children, it is their first experience with being away from home regularly for the full day. Think about the effort here – they are meeting and remembering many new friends, getting comfortable with a new teacher, learning to follow rules and directions, being introduced to academics, having to eat on a new schedule, likely getting up earlier than they did in the summer and not really being able to rest when they are tired. My younger daughter Claire was wiped out by the start of Kindergarten. By Thursday every week she was dragging, and by Friday she was weepy at pick-up. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help in the process.
The first is to be sure your child is getting a good night’s sleep. Through the elementary school years the goal is for children to have ten to twelve hours of sleep each night. If you are not there, you might think to move bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each week. Transitioning to this goes best if you move slow and systematically.
You might also lay low on participating in other activities, at least for the first several weeks. After school sports and music lessons are likely too much here. Once you are into the school year, go back and add one activity at a time.
Waiting to join other actitivies helps to ensure your child is getting enough dowtime. Downtime is relaxed time that they are in charge. It is unstructured playtime. It is recommended that children have an hour of downtime a day through ten years old.
If it’s really bad (and ours was), you might try an early pick-up at least on Fridays.