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How to Know If Your Child Is Emotionally Ready for Kindergarten

ready for kindergarten"
ready for kindergarten
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

When your child graduates from preschool, how do you know they ready for the next phase in their academic journey? What are the signs of emotional maturity that would help you determine whether your child is ready for kindergarten? 

I have two children with very different needs and emotional maturity. When it was time for my son to graduate from preschool, I could tell he was unprepared for kindergarten. He has autism which causes delays in certain areas, and I knew he would not succeed with peers his chronological age because he was developmentally moving at his own unique pace. However, when it was time to decide whether my daughter was ready, I felt like she could have taken on the challenge of kindergarten boldly at a much younger age. She displayed a level of maturity years ahead of her brother. 

As a cognitive specialist (and a parent), I’m sharing what I have seen over the past 15 as indicators of emotional maturity for children. Here are four areas parents should consider when asking the question: is my child emotionally ready for kindergarten?



EQ vs. IQ

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is how we show our ability for social learning; a child with well-developed EQ can demonstrate self-control, communicate properly, and show empathy, to name a few. Intelligent Quotient (IQ) is the ability to show how we attain knowledge and process presented information.

While both are important, as a parent, it can be easy to overlook the importance of EQ if you have a child doing well academically. If your child can learn with ease and loves learning yet has difficulty managing or expressing their emotions, that child may have a well-developed IQ but not EQ. On the other hand, if you have a child who is sensitive and responsive to the environment around them and can pick up on the small nuances of another person’s discomfort, however, they struggle to make progress academically, that child may have a well-developed EQ but not IQ.


While both [EQ and IQ] are important, as a parent, it can be easy to overlook the importance of EQ if you have a child doing well academically.


What does this mean exactly? Both skills will mature with time, but it can be a challenge if a child is forced into an environment they are emotionally not ready to handle.


Communicating Their Emotional Needs

A key component to success in life is the ability to clearly communicate and convey your thoughts to another person—in this case, teachers and classmates. 

Keep in mind when referencing communication skills, I am not referencing the ability to speak. If you have a typically developing child, they are often chatty and expressive. I am referencing the child who can speak but struggles to communicate their emotional needs. For example, if your child is having a hard time expressing their emotions—like sadness or anger—or lack coping skills, they may not be ready to navigate the kindergarten environment successfully. On the other hand, if your rising kindergartener can communicate their needs and handle the opinions of others, they may be ready for kindergarten.


emotionally ready for kindergarten

Source: Shutterstock


Handling Transitions

Can your child handle a transition well? Having a good development EQ means that you have developed a sense of open-mindedness and can go with the flow. A child with rigidity in their routine might struggle with anxiety about the unknown; therefore, they may not feel a sense of safety within their environment to believe that change is good and can be fun. 

A child having a hard time with transitions might be thinking about the worst-case scenario and cannot recall the past experiences of success to move forward. My son is very open to change; he is a go-with-the-flow type of kid, a trait that I must credit to his father; however, upon arrival in a new setting, he requires time to adjust. My daughter, on the other hand, is different. She needs the information ahead of time, like me. Transitions for my daughter require preparation, and transition for my son requires time. 

If you have a child who requires an adjustment period or once you provide information about the transition and they are fine, that is not a child with a transition problem. However, if they still have difficulties adjusting and no matter what you do or say—preparing and giving them time to get settled—they may have a hard time transitioning. This can be a sign they’re still developing their emotional maturity—it’s a skill that is emerging. This could mean giving them more time before kindergarten will benefit them greatly.


Listening Skills and Self-Awareness 

The ability to listen correlates with your self-awareness; if you repeatedly tell your child they do not listen, they may not even have the awareness to recognize that they are not listening in the first place. This can be highly frustrating to a parent, but most importantly, crushing to a child’s self-esteem. 

A child’s early academic years set the tone for the relationship they are going to have with learning and other people. A child who has not fully developed the ability to listen can be told repeatedly that something is wrong with them and start to believe it as truth. But in reality, they are simply not ready.

Self-aware children can understand how their actions will impact others and make choices to align with that. In the classroom, this looks like listening and following rules and instructions. A child who is not listening may not be aware that they are impacting others and believe they are isolated in their actions and can seem confused when told otherwise. 

When it came time for me to decide when to start kindergarten for my children, I followed their lead rather than what I wanted to do. I had to also put the social pressures aside as well as the expectations of others and do what was right for my family and, most importantly, for my child. My daughter went to kindergarten and my son did TK (transitional kindergarten), which gave him an additional year to fill in some of his emotional gaps. It was the best decision for him, and I don’t regret it. He’s now a rising 7th grader, and I have not spent any time second guessing whether we made the right choice.

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