Children grow up so fast. They're a newborn, you blink, and they're a four or five-year-old ready to start their first day of primary school.
If you're already there and have a child ready to embark on their schooling life, or perhaps you're not a parent yet and you're just curious, here are some of the experiences and behaviours your child will deal with - and how you can manage them, too.
On this page:
Your child's development
Before we delve into the experience of starting school, let's discuss where your child will be at development-wise. Knowing a rough idea of where they're at provides important context as to how they act, react, socialise, learn and grow during their school years.
At five- to six-years-old, you can expect some tricky emotions, independence, friendships, more communication, improved physical coordination.
They're going to be able to communicate and control their feelings a lot better at this age, however they will still need support in understanding some emotions and how to verbalise and manage them, and of course they still want their parents' love and attention. They will also be seeking your approval - whether they actively ask for it or not - so be sure to give them your praise and admiration.
They'll start expanding their vocabulary, learning around 5-10 new words every day, and even begin to understand and enjoy humour. They're going to be more physically active and coordinated, too.
Here are some ways to encourage your child's development according to Raising Children Network:
Encourage moving: play different sports and do recreational activities together or with others. These teach social skills like taking turns, cooperating, negotiating, playing fairly and being a good sport.
Include your child in simple household chores: setting the table or helping you to put clean clothes away develops moving and thinking skills, while also teaching cooperation and responsibility. These skills are important for school.
Set aside some time for free play: even if your child has started school and other structured activities, play is still very important at this age. Let your child choose how to spend this free playtime.
Play with your child each day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Playing together gives you the chance to enter your child’s world and find out about their thoughts and feelings. It also shows your child that you care about them and want to spend time together.
Practise classroom behaviour: for example, you could give your child small tasks that need attention or involve following simple rules or instructions.
Arrange playdates: spending time with other children, especially if they go to the same school, helps with social skills and gets your child used to being apart from you.
Talk about feelings: you can help your child work out why they’re feeling something and help them put words to these feelings. This will help your child form friendships and show empathy.
Talk with your child about treating boys and girls equally and respecting girls and women.
Choosing a school
Picking where you send your child to school can be difficult, and understandably so, you just want what's best for them and it can be hard to know until they're actually enrolled.
So before you make the decision, ask yourself what will work best for your child's personality, strengths, needs and interests. You can then weigh those up against a school's values, culture and also your family values and culture.
Other considerations like the size of the school, the cost of enrolment, its location and proximity to your home, if any of your child's friends are attending and if they provide any before or after-school activities or extracurriculars.
Preparing your child for school
Of course this is a totally new experience for your child, so there will be nerves and uncertainty on their part. But there are many ways to support your child in this and put an ease to those feelings.
In the months and weeks before they start school, get them familiar with the environment. Take them onto school grounds and show them where things are (classrooms, toilets, playground, etc.), introduce them to their teacher and those working in the school office, and show them where you're going to drop them off and pick them up from every day. The more certainty you can give them, the less worried they will begin to feel. Nerves are normal though, so let them know that it's ok to feel that way but remind them how exciting this time is.
If you know some of their friends who will be attending, organise playdates with them so they can strengthen their bond before heading into school.
The first few weeks
The time has come - they're officially going to school!
In these formative weeks, be sure to up your support and communication with your child following their day in the classroom.
Be sure to drop them at school before the morning bell, and be there ready to pick them up before the end-of-the-day bell if you can. If you're late it can make your child anxious.
Let them tell you as little or as much about their day. You can encourage them to communicate more by asking them questions, especially positive ones like, "What was one good thing that happened today?"
Don't put too much pressure on their academic performance and progress at this stage. Think of it like when you as an adult start a new job, it takes time to settle in before you begin to excel at what you're doing. It's the same for our kids. If you're worried about any learning difficulties, speak to your child's teacher and their GP.
What to know about bullying
If your child tells you about teasing or bullying, immediately speak to their classroom teacher to carve out an action plan.
If your child isn't actively telling you that they're being bullied but you have a suspicion, some signs you can watch for include:
Physical injuries like: bruises, scratches
Missing property: lunch box items for example
Changed eating or sleeping patterns
Complaints about not wanting to go to school
Notes from their teachers about your child having difficulty answering questions in class, trouble with schoolwork, sitting alone or not taking part in school activities
You can also ask them questions about their day like, "What games did you play at lunchtime today?" or "Is there anyone at school you don't like? Why?"
If the shoe is on the other foot and it's your child that's doing the bullying, someone will definitely tell you - whether it be the teacher, another child's parents or one of your child's siblings.
Have conversations with your child, even before they start school, about what bullying is, how it affects others and why they shouldn't partake in it.
Work with their school about their policy on bullying, which is what they'll use to decide the consequences your child. If you support their decision, it sends a strong message to your child that their behaviour is not OK and won't be tolerated.
As for why they're bullying? There are a number of contributing factors which may include that they're being bullied themselves, they're seeing bullying at home or in TV programs or they're trying to feel more important and in control.
Working on your child's self-esteem alongside discipline and positive attention are ways to help get on top of and eradicate their bullying behaviour. Also be sure to set a healthy example as a parent.
If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime, in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.
Article originally published by: Raising Children Network
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.