Why would one want to enter parenthood?

Entry into kindergarten - a significant event for the family

Introduction: two inner monologues

Educator: “Tomorrow the first new children will come…. There are very many again this year, almost half of the group will be newcomers, and many of them are only just three years old. It's not easy for the children from the old group either. Some will miss their best friends who are now going to school, and those who are now the big ones in the group have to find their new roles first. It is not at all easy to get the needs of the “old” and the new children under one roof at the beginning of a new kindergarten year. But after all these years I know what to expect and how best to react to it. Hopefully it will work out as well as it did last year, when the big ones really took care of the little ones very kindly and reliably: Show where everything is, go to the toilet with them, practice the daily routine…. They were really proud ... and hopefully there won't be too many tears in the morning. Sometimes you really don't know whether the child cannot break away from the mother or the mother cannot break away from the child. I don't know very much about the children yet. Some will again almost continuously demand my attention and - when I think of the trial mornings - some real bullies are also there again. Parents probably expect them to learn discipline here. It will take a few strenuous weeks and often become hectic until the little ones have really become kindergarten children and all together are a group again…. " (cf. the quotation of this monologue as an introduction to the topic in Püttmann & Wortmann, 2015, p.16).

Mother: “Tomorrow is our first day of kindergarten ... So now the time has come. Our little one: a kindergarten child. And me: a proud kindergarten mother! Although, somehow I'm a bit sad, something is coming to an end and letting go is not that easy. Hopefully he won't cry tomorrow ... When I think back to how much we thought about kindergarten ... It didn't work out with my dream kindergarten, but it is nearby and the children from the neighborhood also go. The director seems to be okay, I'm not so sure about one of the teachers, hopefully he'll get the other. Hopefully he'll get it. On the trial morning, it suddenly seemed so tiny and lost to me, between the five and six year olds. Somehow I found it a bit chaotic. Everyone did what he wanted, and the teacher was there. I thought they would do more together, in a group ... under the guidance of the teacher, do handicrafts or sing. Later on in school they have to sit still. Hopefully he'll hold out the whole morning without me. On the other hand, he now needs kindergarten. He's often bored at home. He now needs the other children and new suggestions that I can no longer give him…. He's rather shy, hopefully the teacher won't overlook him, he just needs a lot of attention ... "

The introductory monologues were compiled from statements made by educators and parents as part of an empirical study on the transition from family to kindergarten (1995-1997) (Griebel & Niesel, 1998; Niesel & Griebel, 2000). The kindergarten landscape has changed since then. The expansion of places for children who have not yet completed their third year of life has led to the construction of many day nurseries and the opening of kindergartens for the youngest age group. When entering a first institution outside of the family, in which they will spend part of their everyday life, attention has also increasingly focused on the youngest age group (Niesel & Griebel, 2015). As a result, the age spectrum in many day-care centers has expanded (Nied et al., 2011) Most children are still three years old when they make the transition from the family to a day-care center. You may find yourself in a new environment in which not only older, but also younger children than yourself already belong. How children settle in anew in a daycare center remains a profound experience for around three-year-olds.

What is a transition?

On the basis of developmental and social psychological research, a model was developed at the State Institute for Early Pedagogy (IFP) in Munich with which striking changes that affect the individual, the whole family and their living environment can be described (Bavarian State Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs, Women and Youth & State Institute for Early Education, 2012; Griebel & Niesel, 2015). Such life events are the transition from partnership to parenthood when the first child is born (2004) the entry of the child into adolescence, when it deals critically with its parents and experiences increasing independence (Niesel & Griebel, 2014), separation / Divorce of parents, new partnership and the formation of a stepfamily (Griebel & Niesel, 2004). Transitions in the educational system, such as entering kindergarten, changing from a daycare center to kindergarten, starting school for the first child and changing to a secondary school are also part of this (Griebel & Niesel, 2015). Successful coping strengthens the skills of those involved, advantages for coping with further transitions are expected. If this is not successful, problems in coping with subsequent transitions are to be feared. If several transitions have to be mastered at the same time, the risk of being overwhelmed increases. When entering kindergarten, this can happen if, for example, a sibling is born in close time or if one parent takes up gainful employment or if the job is lost.

Essential aspects of the transition are changes in identity, roles, relationships, the occurrence of strong emotions and the experience of stress. Everything together gives a picture of “condensed development requirements”.

In addition, there is switching between different living environments. The inner-psychological and interpersonal aspects of the reorganization as well as the adaptation to the diversity of living environments do not happen at the same time. For those affected, the feeling of disorganization or disorder, but also of loss of control can arise; After a period of adjustment, reorganization begins until a new equilibrium is achieved.

Considering the entry of the first child into kindergarten as part of the transition concept is helpful in order to better understand developments (both desirable and undesirable) during the settling-in period and to be able to react appropriately pedagogically.

The child and his or her parents are in a transition situation that will bring a large number of changes with it, while the educator is the professional companion of the transition from the family to the kindergarten. It plays a key role in the coping efforts of children and families.

From the IFP transition model, which systematically presents development tasks on different levels, some central aspects of the transition are picked out below, which were particularly clearly expressed in the conversations with the children. From this we derive suggestions for educational support.

A transition is a process-like event

A transition is not a time-limited event, but a longer-term process. Entry into kindergarten does not only take place on the first day, but begins with the family's preparations and ends when the child has settled in. It should be critically considered whether the conventional term “settling in” is the best term here - because it rather implies a passive image of the young child. That does not fit with his active approach to the world and his lively engagement with it and his own learning and experience, as it is now in the foreground of the image of the young, competent child. The process sometimes takes longer than parents and educators expect. This can be seen in the reactions of the children, who are perceived as having difficulties settling in the facility. Most of the time, however, these are not behavioral problems, but reactions to the changes, which take different lengths of time to cope with.

“Well, I've been here for a little while now. Not that long. At first I didn't want to, but mom showed me everything and I was allowed to visit her here. It's better to visit because I could go home when I wanted. Now the visit is over. " (Denise, 3; 3)

“When I was new I was sad. With mom it was so cozy and here it was so much !! " (Maxi, 4; 8)

“So at first everything was new here. But after a few days it was old. So not really old, just for me - you understand? " (Toni, 4; 1)

For the parents, the considerations about which institution and when their child should be admitted begin long before the actual registration and before the child is prepared. They worry about the child's well-being in the facility, his or her “kindergarten readiness” and the planning of optimal support. Parents hope that their child will have as trouble-free entry into kindergarten as possible. They compare their child with others who seem to get used to it faster. Expectations can sometimes be passed on to the child as pressure and become a stress factor for the child. In fact, the transition affects not only the child, but also the parents.

Educational support: allow enough time

The time between registration of the child and entry into kindergarten could be used more intensively to prepare for how children and parents settle in. Trial visits are common practice, a staggered admission of children to around half of the Bavarian kindergartens, parents are usually allowed to stay with their child for a while at the beginning.

Informing the parents about the goals of attending kindergarten and about the main features of the pedagogy there is important if they are to prepare their child realistically and not influence the child against the background of their own faded or problematic experiences.

Many parents feel overwhelmed from the first parents' evening. If the first parents' evening is relieved of information overload, there would be more opportunity for questions and dialogue. In particular, information relating to the organization of the facility can be communicated in advance in writing. If the child is directly involved in the admission process, there are opportunities to get to know him (and his parents) better and more personally. Many educators complain that they do not know enough about the individual child and his nature as well as about his family when it comes to the group. This makes it difficult to work with him in the initial phase.

Educators have to deal with their own expectations regarding the settling time and they should also know what expectations the parents have. Parents should also be given time for this process. Progress observations are the basis for describing the course of this initial phase of attending a daycare center. Parents need feedback on this and the clear message that longer periods of settling in can be “normal”. This relieves the parents, and when the educator and parents adjust to the child together, the child is also relieved.

Change of identity

A transition affects how a person understands and feels about themselves. The child feels “older” and “bigger” and experiences a higher status compared to children who are not yet in kindergarten. Over time it develops a “we-feeling” for its kindergarten. It is important for the child that it recognizes requirements and feels up to them and that they can use the experience opportunities in kindergarten for themselves. The self-image gains to be a “competent kindergarten child”.

The beginning of new phases of life is often accompanied by rituals that are common in a society. At the beginning of kindergarten this is less pronounced than, for example, at the beginning of school (school cone), but the new acquisitions for the kindergarten (lunch bag, slippers, etc.) are particularly appreciated.

“I cried a lot when I was new here. But secretly. Nobody should see that. Because - I wanted to be a kindergarten child, and I didn't want to either. My head didn't really know. That's how it went." (Petra, 4; 1)

“I was happy to come. I had on a new dress and new shoes and a new kindergarten bag. That was worth it." (Steffi, 5; 1)

“A kindergarten kid like me is pretty grown up. Not so babyish anymore. The little new ones are weeping so terribly. They always scream mama mama. I do not do this anymore. I want to go to school. " (Laronne, 5; 4)

The change in identity applies not only to the individual, but also to the parents. They become “kindergarten parents” when they consciously perceive their child with his / her changing needs in the group of kindergarten children and support it in coping with its new requirements. This also means that they accept their membership in the group of “co-parents” and that they embark on new experiences in this capacity.

A certain change in their parents' identity is expressed in the fact that in parenting they do not introduce themselves with their own name, as is usually the case with adults, but define via the child: "I am Sonja's mother." What the transition meant for the parents themselves could often only be described in retrospect. The question arises as to what the parents themselves need or what they have to do themselves in order to become kindergarten parents.

Educational support

In order to experience the change in identity, many institutions have introduced small rituals that underline the special importance of this day for the newly admitted children, and in which the older kindergarten children take on a part. Example: A “big” kindergarten child hangs a pretzel on a colorful ribbon around a new member of his group and a card with the symbol that the new child will find in his cloakroom and drawer.

Perhaps the parents could also be introduced with a welcoming ritual in which “older” kindergarten parents offer themselves as interlocutors. This would promote the trust and the sense of togetherness of parenthood.

Strong emotions / stress

The encounter with the unknown and the awareness that a new phase of life is beginning bring strong feelings for the family members. With all the anticipation and curiosity about what's to come, the transition to kindergarten is also associated with loss and goodbye. For the child this is the experience of the regular temporary absence of the parents, who represent the “safe base” for them, in a new environment and without a relationship of trust having already been established with the educator. Uncertainties, fears and stresses for the new children have been described in the research (Griebel & Niesel, 2004, 2015). The degree to which they express grief, tension and anxiety or confidence and serenity is likely to be determined by essential characteristics such as his temperament. Not all violent reactions from children can be directly related to the way they settle into kindergarten. One should also be careful with ascriptions such as “excessive mother-child bonding”, “overprotective parenting behavior”, because they distort the perception of contexts and can become a burden on the relationship between the educator and the child's family. Strong emotional reactions during the transition to kindergarten are to some extent considered normal.

"I was very sad. I wanted to cry, but I didn't dare. So many children and many tables and many chairs. I wanted to go home again, but my mom wouldn't allow it. I like to come. Only girls would be even better. " (Sandra, 4; 2)

“When I was little here I was so excited. I haven't slept all night. I was happy and afraid. Everything was so big and I always went behind mom. But then she put me in and - yes, that's it ”. (Tino, 3; 8)

“Well, I was sad at the beginning too. I couldn't imagine it that way. I prefer when I already know something. I've been scared of here all night. But I didn't have to. It's great here.I noticed it was going to be better with me! " (Desiree, 3; 1)

For their part, parents reported uncertainty as to how their child would cope with the new demands. They felt feelings of farewell to a phase of life in which the parent-child relationship was experienced particularly closely (“nest feeling”). Entrusting the child to someone else for a certain time of the day also means a loss of control over the child. Some parents try to counter the discomfort that is felt in this way by asking the child about the time in the group or by asking the teacher about the child and trying hard to harness them for their own child.

Educational support: Don't be afraid to say goodbye

If the child cries and protests when they are brought in the morning, it is often attributed to the mother-child relationship alone. Although relatively few children cry in the mornings during the acclimatization period, in our survey of educators more often as a criterion for acclimatization, the child no longer cries in the morning. It is possible that the educator's emotional concern, who witnessed the reactions of children and parents, is responsible for the fact that she assesses these reactions very strongly in terms of quality, while quantitatively it concerns rather individual cases. The tasks for the parents named include “letting go of the child”, “cutting the cord from the child”, “separating”, “giving the child away”, “putting it into someone else's hands”. These terms seem almost dramatic, because they mean that the child is entrusted to professionally trained carers in a suitable environment for a foreseeable period of time. These designations and labeling of maternal behavior sometimes appear problematic. Possibly these assessments are “sanctions” for unfulfilled role expectations on the part of the educators. The danger here is that a rivalry between “bad” mothers who “cannot break free” and educators as “better” surrogate mothers who make it easier for the child to get out of the constricting family is constructed. If you allow separation reactions, you will be more affected yourself. A conscious examination of one's own feelings can bring clarification.

“Don't be afraid to say goodbye” could be a support for coping with strong emotions in children and parents. A better understanding than transitional reactions allows a more relaxed pedagogical approach to it.

Children and parents should not be expected to suppress their feelings. The experience that insecurity and sadness subside and the joy of new things gains the upper hand, that possibilities for action open up - this is the process that should be carefully monitored from an educational perspective.


Entry into kindergarten is more successful if it is understood, wanted and supported by the environment by the child (and the parents!). Then children can experience themselves as co-determinants of their curriculum vitae, as active transitioners to kindergarten children and are more likely to be successful than if they are involuntarily and unsupportedly exposed to an unsafe, unknown environment in which they should somehow get along. It is important that educators - even those who have been active in their profession for a long time - are aware of this difference between uniqueness / first time on the one hand and professional distance and routine on the other. Kindergarten teachers, with whom we talked about the admission and acclimatization of children, spontaneously said that every new year of kindergarten is a transition for them too. This is further proof that the switch to the new kindergarten year for kindergarten teachers is not only associated with special work demands, but also with emotions: saying goodbye to children who have come to school, and perhaps also to parents with whom they collaborate Well the facility worked particularly well. But joy and curiosity about the new children and families also resonate.

We want to encourage educators to reflect on their extensive pedagogical repertoire with regard to their role as pedagogical companions of the transition. To this end, we want to encourage them to start and maintain the dialogue about the transition with their parents and children at an early age. These recommendations are in line with a guideline on the quality of cooperation with parents (Kobelt Neuhaus et al., 2014). It not only teaches specialists, but also parents what is important in cooperation: Perceiving parents as experts for their children, getting to know their living conditions and clarifying role expectations means willingness to engage in dialogue not only for the educators, but also for the parents From the beginning. Knowledge of the concept for this phase is important for the parents in order to enter and settle in the day-care center, and ultimately also the joint design of transitions from one place of education to the next. Informed parents are more competent conversationalists in the dialogue with the specialists about the best possible education for their children.


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More articles by Renate Niesel here in our family handbook

More articles by Wilfried Griebel here in our family handbook


Wilfried Griebel, born in 1951, qualified psychologist, research assistant at the State Institute for Early Childhood Education in Munich. Main focus of work in the area of ​​family research and early childhood education; numerous publications and training activities

Renate Niesel, born in 1948, qualified psychologist, until 2012 research assistant at the State Institute for Early Education in Munich. Research focus: children in transition situations; numerous publications and training activities for pedagogical specialists in child day care


State Institute for Early Education

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Created on June 2nd, 2015, last changed on June 2nd, 2015