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11Nov 13

Guiding your children through the first school years

When our children reach school-age, it can be wrenching for parents. Waving goodbye as the little ones disappear behind the school gates on their first day is harder than you would think!

The separation is difficult for children, too. But as our kids begin to navigate their brave new world, good parenting is just as important as ever. We need to help our kids learn the social skills they need to get the best out of their school days. Here are some of my tips for guiding children through the first school years.

Guiding your children through the first school years

Guiding your children through the first school years

School stress

When children start school, family relationships remain the most important influence on their development. But they are no longer cocooned by family life. They enter a whole new social world where they need to learn how to interact and find their own identity.

My son Tom, now aged 10, took school in his stride, mainly because two of his neighbourhood friends started on the same day. He never looked back!

But D-day was more traumatic for my daughter Mary. In her first year at school, Mary found it difficult to deal with not being invited to a classmate’s birthday party, getting a low mark on a test, or having her pigtails pulled. She would often get off the school bus in tears or with grazed knees, testimony to a playground spat! Temper tantrums at home increased slightly because of the stress she was experiencing.

So I tried to teach her how best to handle various problems at school:

• Make friends and play with other kids after school, have sleepovers, and join groups.
• Try to empathize with different points of view.
• Avoid teasing, bullying or selfishness, which can damage friendships.
• Understand the need for rules. This was one area where Tom also needed guidance, so we had a three-way chat!

Making time to listen

Making time to listen to your school-age children is important. They may have a favourite teacher whom they like and respect, but if they have a fight in the playground or problems with their homework, it’s you they will turn to when they get home.

Set aside time to talk with your children, and do it regularly. I do it every evening with Tom and Mary about their day at school. It sometimes bears little fruit, particularly with Tom, who invariably replies “okay” when asked how his day was. But if I pay close attention, I can sometimes find a seed of a potential conversation with a passing comment, and this can develop into an important discussion about something that is puzzling or worrying my kids.

What are your tips for guiding your children through the first school years?

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