Frequently Asked Questions: 5 Years
My child will turn 5 in August but seems immature compared with other children his age. Should I wait another year before sending him to kindergarten?
Parents often wonder if their child is truly ready to go to kindergarten, especially if the child will turn 5 very close to the deadline set by the school (for example, Sept. 1). They may worry that their child is not yet mature enough or that the demands of the classroom may be too much for their child to handle.
In fact, children do "grow up" at different speeds, and their level of maturity is just as important as their actual age in considering whether they are ready for kindergarten. A child is probably ready to start kindergarten if he has developed most of the physical, developmental and behavioral skills typical of a 5-year-old. In general, this means that the child can care for himself (dress, eat, wash and go to the toilet), communicate, follow directions, play with other children, take turns, share, pay attention and sit quietly for short periods.
Waiting one more year to start kindergarten has both advantages and disadvantages. It will give your child more time to “grow up” and more time to develop the skills necessary to do well in school. On the other hand, being older than one’s classmates can also be difficult; your child may be bigger than everyone else and, in later years, may feel uncomfortable about entering puberty (that period when a child becomes an adult) faster.
It is not clear that children who wait to start school do better academically or socially than those who don’t. They may seem to have a slight advantage in the beginning, but after a few years, it no longer seems to make much of a difference. This ends up being a personal decision that only parents can make since they know their child best.
For more information, see School Readiness.
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How can I help my child get over his fear of the dark?
Fears are unpleasant feelings about a danger that can be real or imagined (the child still feels the fears are real). Virtually every child (girls more than boys) has some fear(s) at some point in childhood. It is important to realize that fears are common and normal parts of child development. Therefore, they must be handled with understanding and sensitivity.
Constant support and reassurance by a parent or caregiver generally do the trick with most of the common types of fears (such as fear of the dark or monsters under the bed). Children need to know that although you cannot make it so they never have any fears again, you can help your child to handle the fears when they do happen. For example, to help your child cope with his fear of the dark, you may want to ask if it would be helpful to leave his bedroom door open at night or to have a nightlight in his room.
Always be respectful of your child’s fear. Do not use a fear as a threat (for example, "the doctor is going to give you an extra shot if you don’t behave") and don’t embarrass your child about her fear or ignore it. Praise your child as he shows signs of handling his particular fear well. Be patient and know that it takes time to overcome a fear. No one wants a fear to become bigger than it is and perhaps significantly change the way a child does his regular daily activities.
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My child is often constipated and sometimes soils his underwear. What should I do?
Chronic constipation (too long a time between bowel movements) is a common problem in children that often results in soiling of the underwear (encopresis).
The intestine (bowel) needs to be emptied regularly. When stool collects in the lower bowel (rectum), it causes the bowel wall to become stretched out. This feeling of the bowel being stretched is what normally makes us realize we have to go to the bathroom. However, if the bowel is not emptied when it gets full, the wall then stretches more and loses its normal muscle tone and feeling, making it harder and harder to pass the enlarging chunk of stool. This creates an unhealthy cycle. As newer stool is produced in the intestines, some of it leaks around the large chunk of hard stool, passes out of the rectum, and soils the child’s underpants with a foul-smelling liquid or paste.
Common causes of chronic constipation include problems related to toilet training, not eating enough fiber, eating too much of some constipating foods (for example, whole milk, cheese), not drinking enough liquids, not getting enough exercise, being afraid to use the toilet (for example, at school), and ignoring the urge to go to the bathroom (for example, when too busy playing outside).
To help prevent chronic constipation, you can increase the amount of fiber in your child’s diet, increase the amount of fluids he drinks, give him fewer constipating foods to eat, encourage him to exercise more, and remind him to use the toilet whenever he has the urge to do so.
For more information, see Encopresis.