IT'S the official start of a new school year and most parents have outfitted their children with appropriate school supplies and gears. Unfortunately, many of us miss one crucial part of school readiness — arming our children with the social and emotional skills that they will need to transition smoothly into their various learning environments.
In case you skipped this very important step, clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell shares how you can prepare your child socially and emotionally for the big transition that they have to make.
“The thought of going back to school can cause anxiety and be a source of stress for many children. The trepidation may involve going to a new class and meeting new friends. There's also thought of getting up early in the morning, doing homework and schoolwork, having a new teacher and dealing with bullying, and a host of other issues germane to the school environment,” Dr Bell outlined.
She said that with the appropriate guidance parents can ensure that issues that trigger anxiety and stress in their children are properly managed so that they don't affect the children throughout the year because this could have devastating consequences.
How to do this? Dr Bell gives tips below:
Help them to understand that you don't expect them to be perfect
Children often become fixated on your expectations and sometimes they believe that you expect them to not only be perfect, but to produce perfect grades which can result in the opposite.
“When planning the school year, make sure that you communicate to your children that you are more concerned with them improving rather than getting top grades. You want to be sure that you don't cause anxiety and feelings of inadequacy in your child.”
Unfortunately, bullying is a major concern in schools at all levels – even kindergarteners are forming their own cliques. Encourage your child to be kind to others, both in person as well as on social media sites – since this is now a large part of the communication channel for teenagers. Also, if they are being bullied, you should encourage them to talk to you or a trusted teacher and/or guidance counsellor so that the issue can be rectified.
Support your child as they try to find balance
Finding balance is gold no matter what level of the education system you are. This means that you want to make sure that you do not force your children to take on too many extracurricular activities, or if you recognise that your child is struggling, encourage them to focus on maybe one or two until they are able to strike a healthy balance academics and leisure activities. Dr Bell said that it is important that children are not pressured because this may lead to cognitive overload and trigger stress.
Teach your child coping skills
There will be a host of unfavourable experiences that your child will have and you want to make sure that they are equipped to survive them. For example, if they get a low grade they will need to learn to cope – what to you, cry and get stressed or work on a plan to improve the grade.
Teach social development skills
Some of these things you would have already taught or are teaching your child at home; for example, how to care for personal as well as other people's property, how to locate personal property, how to navigate the busy roads, and other personal safety tips such as what to do if or when a stranger approaches them.
Teach your child to be friendly
School is one of the first places that children develop their first friendships. Help them to understand that it is important to understand the qualities that they want in a friend and that not everybody will fit the profile. A part of learning to be a friend is teaching your child appropriate ways to express emotions and feelings within a group. Other things you should discuss are playing cooperatively, and sharing and taking turns, learning to initiate and maintain peer interactions, and do so without aggression.