How to Deal with Kindergarten Regression

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Written by Abbie Schiller, CEO of The Mother Company

My son started kindergarten almost three weeks ago. The first week went pretty smoothly. The second week, he picked fights with his sister, acted clingy and begged not to go to school. Now that we’re in the third week, I’m recognizing what’s going on: He’s stressed and he’s regressing.

Going to a new school is among life’s most stressful events – especially if your whole life is only five years. There is a new campus to navigate, new authorities to understand, new rules to remember, and no established friends to help you through. To that, add new schedules, expectations, and for many kindergartners – homework – and it all makes for an anxious child who can lash out.  Or regress.

To make things even worse, our (collective society “our”), assumption that this is an “exciting” time that “big kids” should be enjoying. What’s a kid to do?

Act out. Demand attention. Become needy. Tantrum. Wet the bed. There is a major disturbance in the force! They can’t articulate all of this, but we can.

New schools are exhausting, demanding, and sometimes downright frightening (Big kids! New kids! Where’s the bathroom?!). These feelings will pass – and pass more quickly – if we can help children talk about them.

The state standards for kindergartners are pretty demanding. So let’s go a little easier on them. No need to tolerate awful behavior, but at least we can empathize where it is coming from, and help them understand their struggle.

Here are a few tips to ease the adjustment:

  1. Spend “special time” with your child – let them feel your attention, make them (not your phones) a priority. Every day till this passes – and then as often as you can.
  1. Fill their love bank – snuggle and love them – remind them they are loved.
  1. Ask about their day and listen. “Who did you eat lunch with?” “What was fun?” and “What was the hardest thing you did today?”
  1. Give them the words – scared, nervous, anxious – and let them know that these feelings will come and go and might even be replaced with “calm” “confident” and “excited” (or at least “accepting”).
  1. Sleep is crucial – this is a marathon, not a sprint – so both kids and parents must rest up because exhaustion adds a slew of other issues.

Regressive behavior comes from stress or trauma. So the more we can provide comfort and regularity, the more our kids will go back to being themselves and begin to thrive.

As for my kid, I ended up talking to the teacher and, like a total pro, she offered to give my son some “special” assignments to help him feel like he belonged.  After sitting in a special spot on the rug, being “chosen” to empty out the recycling paper, and taking the attendance list to the main office, he came home and announced “I actually love Kindergarten now.”  Thanks, amazing teacher!

If children really are going to learn everything they need to know in life, in kindergarten, they have a lot to process…especially on the first few weeks of this tremendous journey.


The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out our children’s series, “Ruby’s Studio” along with our beautiful children’s books, music and more.  


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Posted in: Parental Wisdom, The Mother Co. Mamas, School