My son will turn five in September, and I can’t decide if he’s ready for kindergarten. Are there any solid indicators in your opinion?
The most important skill for your child is not a skill, but a healthy state of mind. Does he have the social and emotional maturity to thrive in a room of twenty children his age? It’s important to be ready to learn to read, but it’s more important to be able to sit in a circle at story time (sustain attention), share the LEGOs (play interactively), and wait for snack time without melting down (delay gratification). My friend and colleague Meg Zehmer, an early childhood educator at St. Catherine’s School and Everyday Parenting Solutions, says it’s certainly helpful if your child can cut, color, and glue, but what teachers want most is to have a child who is self-directed and self-regulated.
Also consider his age. Your son is only turning five in September, which will make him one of the younger children in class this fall, and indeed, all of his school years ahead. Kindergarten classes, especially in the public school system, have effectively moved the first grade skills and expectations from years ago down to kindergarten. This means your little boy will need the ability to sit more than he has in preschool and conquer worksheets. If he’s more of a mover and a shaker than a table-top learner (which is especially true of boys), consider giving him the gift of a bit more time if your family can swing it. I realize it’s a privilege to wait another year before starting school. Check with your pediatrician first, but as Meg says, “When in doubt, wait it out.”
Whether or not you’re sure your child will attend kindergarten this fall, register him so the schools can prepare for the maximum number of students. Look for more information about this district-wide registration at SmartBeginningsRVA.org.
Then have fun helping him prepare! Build that stamina for story time engagement by visiting the many wonderful libraries, bookstores, and museums in our area. Have play dates for your child. Put the phone away and interact face to face with your child in device-free play. His happiness and success in kindergarten is more contingent on creating a magical beast from Play-Doh with a friend than being a master at swiping a tablet. Make bedtime a regular and predictable routine followed by plenty of sleep, even in the summertime. Whenever your child begins kindergarten, you’ll be raising a healthy and resilient child for many school years to come.
My 14-year-old waffles between wanting to be an influencer on Instagram and a nail technician. This drives my partner crazy, but I’m happy she’s considering careers at this stage. Not everyone has to go to college. Who has this one right – me or hubs?
Adolescence is not known for careful and considerate long-term planning. Your daughter is at an age characterized by impulsiveness and what looks good and feels good – especially in front of her peers. A 14-year-old is actively defining her own identity, with all its strengths and foibles. She needs to explore and dream and to find a safe harbor in you as she does. So I have to side with you, Mom, in letting her explore her options, even if it’s outside the box or off the proverbial path to college. No matter what, overreacting now may shut her down and close the door on the communication you’ll need to make it through the teen years ahead, so you can be a healthy influence in her life.
At this age, parents move from manager to mentor, both challenging our children but supporting them, too. The challenge is to keep her firm in your family values so she’ll always have that internalized anchor of good character, no matter what career she chooses. These can include concepts such as respect for authority, kindness to others, and a work/life balance for a healthy mind and body. If this sounds like your family, I’d encourage you to help her take a deeper look at becoming an Internet Influencer. While this is a source of gainful employment for many successful adults, it is now looking like an unhealthy and even harmful lifestyle for children. So be proactive, and gently come alongside her to chat about the pros and cons of becoming an Internet influencer at any age. An influencer’s success and very identity is gauged by the number of followers. Even when followers grow from 100 to 1,000 to 10,000, it’s never enough. The followers, posts, and money that can come from promoting products can become all-consuming and distract teens from real life – like grades, friendships, and sleep.
Tech-Talk Tuesdays, a blog from the makers of the documentary Screenagers, describes one young man’s experience this way: “It took many hours a day to create these accounts – he started at 6 a.m., continued on the school bus, between classes, at lunch, during study hall, he would keep his social media empire running with new memes, images, and video trying to get to one hundred posts a day. After suddenly being pulled by his main sponsor, he fell into a deep depression and sense of insecurity without his digital identity.”
Another teen on the blog noted that for some teens, “social media platforms are our only chance to create and shape our sense of self. Social media makes us feel seen.”
Give your daughter other ways to be seen for who she is with all her personality and skills and talents. Find channels for her creativity
in real-life experiences – like volunteering to paint people’s nails at school festivals or doing nails for friends and relatives. In all honesty, learning to be a nail tech is an art, and requires emotional maturity to interact and build relationships. For the time being, that career choice may be the healthy alternative you can support.
Photo: Maria Sbytova