It is the start of a new school year. Many children are getting ready to return to primary school, others are preparing for their first day there.
The seasoned pupils are looking forward to meeting their friends, getting new school books, having new teachers, and moving up the school ladder.
The newcomers meanwhile are getting ready to enter the world of education and deal with all the changes this will bring - new faces, places and subjects, a more structured day, perhaps separation from their pre-school friends, and a longer absence from the security of home.
Children deal differently with these challenges. Some take them in their stride while others struggle to cope with new environments and expectations.
Parents are keen to help smooth the transition to primary school. So how can they best support their children in the days ahead? Here are some tips to help make the move easier:-
1. Avoid passing on your own concerns or fears. This especially applies if your child is starting school. Some parents may not have fond memories of their school days and may inadvertently pass those on to their children. Instead try to focus on the positive. Talk about the good experiences you had (there must be some! ) and how you coped with the different challenges. Encourage them to widen their circle of friends, school is the perfect place to get to know new people.
2. Listen. Be sure to offer a listening ear when your child wants to talk, otherwise the moment may pass and you will miss out on a golden opportunity for closeness and revelation. If you tend to be busy a lot of the time make sure to set aside a particular stage of the day when you both can sit down and catch up on the day’s happenings. That way you will keep abreast of things and be aware if your child is experiencing any worries or difficulties. Be alert for signs that s/he may be worried about something or may be having difficulty with a particular subject. If your child is older and in a senior class it is a good idea to keep him/her engaged with the family by being involved in family meals, outings and chores, however minimal.
3. Develop a close liaison with your child’s school. That way you will be aware at an early stage of any learning problems your child is having. It will also enable you to keep the teacher informed of any factors in the child’s life which could affect his/her work in class. Becoming involved in school activities will help, too. Show interest in school life by attending information evenings, board of management elections, parent/teacher meetings, and fundraising events. Research indicates that when parents display an interest in the workings of the school and become involved in its activities, their children perform well academically and generally cope better.
4. Be interested and involved in what your children are doing. Supervise their homework and look through their books. Ask about what they are learning in class and get them to explain topics that may be new to you.
5. Establish a study pattern. Children in younger classes may have very little homework but it is a good idea to get them into the habit of sitting down quietly and looking over their school books or discussing their day with you. This will prepare them for the routine of homework later.
6. Try to get homework done as soon as possible after school. That way, the information will still be fresh in the child’s mind. If that is not feasible set aside a special time for homework. It is also a good idea to encourage children to do it in one time block. If they are experiencing difficulty with any aspect, allow them time to try to figure it out themselves first before offering advice or assistance. Look over the completed assignments afterwards. This will enable you to notice any mistakes or discover early indications of problems.
7. Boost their confidence. A strong sense of self-worth is one of the keys to success in life. Those who flounder at school tend to be those with low self-esteem, say experts. A child who sees the world as a good place and feels loved and wanted has a great advantage over someone who is negative or doubting. Children who possess a good self-image enjoy challenges, take knocks in their stride, and are open and accepting. Parents can play a major part in building their children’s confidence. If you want your child to be positive and confident lead by example. Aim to be a good role model of someone with a positive self-image. If you feel inferior and hard done by you may transmit this to your child in your comments, attitude and reluctance to embrace change and challenges.
8. Encourage them to have a balanced, positive view of themselves. Allow them to make decisions for themselves at an early age. Taking on responsibility helps them develop confidence. Instil in them that failing at something does not make them a failure. Teach them not to be afraid of not succeeding. We must take risks to grow and we learn from our mistakes. Gently advise them how to deal with mistakes or setbacks and remind them that their behaviour is separate from their identity. Do not tolerate self put downs. If your child says s/he is useless at sports or maths respond with a positive remark.
9. Use positive feedback statements. Point out what is good about their homework, for example, then what could be done to make it better, if necessary. Praise them when they have completed a challenge.
10. Enrol your children in the local library. That will open their eyes to the world of literature and nurture what may well be a lifelong love of books.
11. Encourage them to set goals. This suggestion applies more to older primary school children but will benefit all ages, if applied in an age appropriate way. It will give them focus as well as helping them become determined and motivated. The goals do not have to involve major challenges, all that is needed is little plans to give them a sense of direction. Remind them not to expect success without effort.
12. Intervene, when necessary, especially if you have concerns that something untoward is going on. Any form of bullying or victimisation needs to be nipped in the bud.
13. Encourage new friendships and nurture existing ones. The importance of friendships in children’s lives cannot be under-estimated. Friends play and grow together and provide fun and a level of escapism for each other.