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Tips: How to know if your child is ready for kindergarten

It's a tough question parents debate each summer. A kindergarten teacher and pediatrician weigh in on signs of readiness and how best to prepare your child.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With kids back in school across East Tennessee, many parents had to make the decision if their child should start kindergarten. 

It's a tough one.

The truth is there's not a "one size fits all" approach.

"Development is not the same in every child, they come from different experiences a lot of those things go into play," said pediatrician Dr. Deborah Christiansen. "Trying to decide whether your child is ready to do that is not necessarily an easy question."

However, there are signs of readiness parents can look for to help them decide. Social, emotional and independent skills play a large role.

"Are they going to be able to come in and regulate their emotions? Are they going to be able to come in and if they get upset, calm themselves down and say okay 'I'm going to be okay,'" said Claxton Elementary Kindergarten teacher Taylor Nobles.

While parents ultimately know their child best, both advise also listening to people who spend time with their child like a Pre-K teacher.

"You can ask how do they do? Do they follow along? Maybe they don't listen with you at home for a story but in a group they do," Christiansen said. 

"I ask myself 'Do you think a year from now this will be different? Will these traits be better a year from now or more solidified?' That's how we gage that," Nobles said. 

If your child isn't showing signs they are ready, don't sit around and wait. 

Be proactive. 

"If you make the decision to not send your child on. What are you going to do during that year? Sitting around doing nothing will not have them more prepared than they are right now," Christiansen said.

She suggests enrolling your child in a Pre-K program if possible or efforting practicing those independent skills at home. 

"It's easy for parents to say 'let me button your pants or zip or wash your hands.' Those skills are ones they will need in kindergarten. Teach those at home and that will help foster when they get home," Nobles said.

Dr. Christiansen shares this piece of advice a mentor once gave her, "Once a child can do something for themselves or make a decision by themselves you should never ever do it for them again. Really good advice because any time you do something for your child they already know how to do, you send a message 'you don't know how to do this fast enough,' you want to promote independence."

In the end, don't be worried about making a wrong decision. There isn't one. Teachers and schools are equipped for all student's levels.

"No matter what, the school system is going to meet your child's needs and accommodate them no matter what. If they are ahead we can meet those needs, behind we can meet those as well," Nobles said.