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On Your Father's Side  

Dad's kindergarten anxiety

Baby Betty needs to eat by 4:45 p.m. or she turns into Rosemary’s Baby.

It’s always been our tried-and-true explanation for sudden, unexplained temper tantrums.

She wasn’t happy in June at the end of preschool, and we chalked it up to hunger.

There were several epic emotional outbursts as the last school year ended: shouting, refusing to eat, lashing out at her sisters.

She is our middle child, and, normally, she is happy to embrace her role as peacemaker between her siblings.

It made the behaviour that much more confusing to us, and we searched for answers to explain it.

We were baffled when serving dinner early one night didn’t stem the tide.

It was Betty herself who provided the answer. We were talking about kindergarten and how she was going to know so many kids, plus her older sister, once she walked through the doors at Glenmore Elementary.

She smiled politely, because we’d gone through this song and dance with her numerous times before.

Her next question put her world into greater perspective: “Will I be going to kindergarten tomorrow?”

Gah! Of course!

She’s only five, and she has no concept of time.

While it’s only a pet theory, I chalked up her sudden sullenness to anxiety.

Heck, she’s my child and she would have earned it honestly.

“Oh, of course not,” we told her. “First, we’ll go camping. Then we go to Saskatoon for the wedding. You have art camp and then it will be La-La’s birthday party. There’s all of that, and then you’ll get ready for kindergarten.”

It seemed to ease her mind, because we’ve been blessed with our Betty back all summer.

Now, with her first taste of kindergarten a few hours away (as I write this), she seems to be a little anxious again.

You can’t blame the little ones.

No matter where we go — groceries, soccer practice, ballet practice, holidays — people see her and ask her two questions:

“How old are you, little miss?”

“Are you excited for kindergarten?”

She’s likely internalized this repeatedly, and probably is struggling to process the emotions of kindergarten.

Betty has watched her older sister go through kindergarten and Grade 1 with great triumph, trial and tribulation.

Of course, that would make a person anxious.

I was an only child, so I’ve spent the majority of my life in blissful ignorance.

She gets a front-row seat to what’s coming, good and bad.

If La-La goes on a field trip, she talks about the day she will ride the bus to the museum or Bear Creek Park.

If La-La screams and cries because learning French is too hard, Betty wonders what manner of torture we plan on inflicting her with.

Isn’t anxiety just an adult invention? Do kids live with anxiety?

Boy howdy, do they ever.

Our children are human, and anxiety is a form of stress all humans use in some form.

Kidshealth.org reminds us anxiety is a reaction to the normal, ingrained fight-flight response.

It’s when anxiety becomes overwhelming or develops further more serious symptoms.

We talk more and more about mental health in our teens and adults, but we shouldn’t forget that it might be starting much earlier than that.

Thankfully, our educators are prepared.

Betty will attend kindergarten for an hour today, Thursday and Friday. She will go for two hours three days next week, and then (finally!) she will attend full-time.

Teachers mingle with the kids, assess them, and then group them into classes and pair them with a teacher that best suits them.

It all sounds very touchy-feely, but — really — it makes sense. Yes, parents have to arrange a ridiculous number of deliveries/collections in this short amount of time, but I’m certain it is paying off handsomely.

If you’re still looking for more, Childmind.org has some interesting strategies for helping families cope with anxious moments.

Perhaps the most important one, for me, is “model healthy ways of handling anxiety.”

I did my best to remember that as I hid my tears as Betty let go of my hand and walked into the classroom for the first time today.

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About the Author

David Trifunov is a proud father, humble author and recovering journalist.

Trifunov and his wife, Erin, are raising three little girls in Kelowna and enjoying every second of the trials, triumphs and tribulations.

As a humble author, he has written three middle-grade books for publisher Formac-Lorimer.

To pay the bills so he can raise those kids and write those books, Trifunov is a journalist with 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor.

His parenting column will appear regularly. davidtrifunov.ca



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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