“The essence of all knowledge is self-knowledge.” – Plato
When your child walks through the Kinderpillar doorway for the first time he is meeting a new world where he will be asked to express his unique identity while complying with group expectations of the class. This is not an easy trick for a young child or for even for us adults!
Imagine that you are going to party where you don’t know most people. How do you feel? What do you feel you need to do? Many of us feel the need to express ourselves- define whom we are – so others will welcome us into the group. Some of us will do this quietly while others will make an “entrance”. Your child is not much different from you. When he enters Kinderpillar he is at a developmental stage where he wants others to see who he is and to be accepted by them. His growing sense of self that you have helped him develop from “the day he was born” will be put to task in perhaps the largest group he has ever encountered…. Kinderpillar!
Going off to the “big school” is a major transition for your young child. He may wonder…“Who am I in this group of other children? How can I express my needs and interests and at the same time be accepted as one of the many?”
This is the time when all your support of his personal strengths comes to fruition. You have believed in him and told him so. And now it is time for him to take his place one step further away from the family. He is developing an ‘individuated self” that has a greater sense of his personal strength and independence.
This will be demonstrated in different ways. One way he may express this is in becoming very vocal about his personal preferences and he may even develop some new ones! This is quite normal! It could be frustrating to see him change his clothes for the third time before he goes to school… but he is expressing himself in ways that are developmentally appropriate to this age and stage.
There is so little a young child can “control” in his life. Often children choose something small they can control such as what to wear, what to take to school or even what to eat. Understandably, you might be feeling exhausted by this phase but remember that this is an important part of his process of developing his sense of personal style, independence and expression. If getting to school is a problem set a timer to represent how much time he has to get dressed and when it goes off whatever is on (or almost on) is the outfit of the day!
On the other hand, you may see some uncertainty in him that you haven’t seen before.As children transition into the Junior and Senior KG olds a normally active child may become shy and quiet even if they never have been that way before. From this quiet space a child can observe the others and assess the social code and expectations before he gets involved. Allow your child the opportunity to be quiet and shy. Acknowledge how he is feeling and invite him to talk about it. He may not be able to express in words just how he feels but you will know just by the look in his eyes and his posture. This “observation mode” he is expressing will probably not last long, particularly if you allow him the safety and comfort to stand back from the group for awhile. When he is ready he will fully express his positive sense of self once again with a renewed strength.
Expect your child to go through a settling-in time at any time during the Kinderpillar program. Every child is different. Be prepared for anything and accept and love your child through it. He is experiencing a major shift and change in his life and it may be “rocking” his sense of self and identity. It may take some time for your child to define himself in this new environment. The gift that comes out of this is that your child will have redefined himself out in the world, which is a major step in development.
Supporting Your Child’s Growing Sense of Self
Here are a few things to consider when supporting your child’s growing sense of self.
- Provide choices: Your Kinderpillar Junior and Senior KG child is ready to make choices about many aspects of his life from clothing to personal activities. The trick is to be sure that the choices are all things you approve of and to not give too many choices. By inviting him to make choices you are supporting the development of personal preferences and independence.
- Ask Opinions: Interestingly, young children can be opinionated and this is a good thing! It is an important part of the process of developing his independent viewpoint and expressing himself. For a short phase he may even take an opposing opinion from yours just to make his opinion known but with your loving appreciation this phase can be brief. Ask him what he thinks. Then listen to and appreciate his answer.
“ The things that make me different are the things that make ME.” – Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne