The Pre-K and Kindergarten age is a pivotal time for children. They are becoming more and more independent, developing minds and opinions of their own, and are most likely a part of an ever-widening social circle. For children who have been home for the first few years of their lives, this marks a time where they will enter school and be away from their families for part of the day. For children who have been in day care, their day will become more structured as they enter a formal academic setting. At home, you may find that the parenting techniques you used when your children were toddlers are no longer working, or that your approach as a parent needs to evolve as your children grow. Here are some tips for parenting to incorporate into your home.
1. Stay connected to your children
While it's great that your children are making new friends, your efforts to stay connected with them now will help to lay the groundwork for open lines of communication during their teenage years. Whenever possible, sit down for dinner as a family without the distraction of television, smart phones, or tablets. Talk about your day and encourage your children to talk about theirs. You can try a game called "roses and thorns." Have everyone in the family talk about a rose, or something good that happened to them that day, and a thorn, something that was disappointing. This will show them that you celebrate their successes, but are also there to listen when something is bothering them.
2. Continue family rituals
As kids get older, their activities fill up the family calendar and experiences you may have shared as a family may fall by the wayside. Try to keep up with your traditions, or create new ones so your children will learn to enjoy and depend on that quality family time. Try Friday night pizza and movie parties or a pancake breakfast on Saturday - something simple but fun that the whole family will enjoy.
3. Create healthy eating habits now
It's easier to create a healthy diet when your children are young than it is to change a poor diet when they are older. The first way to do this is to model a healthy diet yourself. Bring your children food shopping with you and let them see you reading labels and choosing fresh produce and healthy, unprocessed foods rather than junk food. Have healthy snacks readily available like carrot sticks and hummus, apple slices and peanut butter, or low-fat yogurt. You can also include your children in meal planning and preparation. Let them help you with tasks like washing fruits and vegetables and measuring out ingredients.
4. Don't fill up your schedule
It's easy for children to become overwhelmed with an overabundance of activities. While it's great for them to be involved in group activities and sports, too much isn't good either. Discuss with your children what they would like to do and choose a few meaningful activities. It's OK to schedule a little down time. A day relaxing at home will be good for you and your children.
5. Schedule screen free time
Kids love electronics, but just as too much screen time isn't great for adults, it isn't for children either. Set aside time during the day when all electronics will be turned off. Television, tablets, phones, computers, shut it all down (even yours!) and choose an activity you can all do together, or designate this as family reading time.
6. Pay attention to who your children are friends with
Since children will learn behaviors from their peers, it's important that you observe the characteristics of your children's friends. How do they relate to other children? What kind of language is used? Do you see any signs of bullying? If you and other parents in your community pay attention to this now, you can help your children work through conflicts that may arise and understand what is OK and not OK in terms of how they act towards their friends and vice versa.
This is a fun and enjoyable time in your children's lives, and incorporating these tips into your home can help make the transition into school age a smooth one.