Primary school is a wild, emotional, exciting and sometimes terrifying adventure – for our children also. There are so many changes from that first precious year when they begin as tiny, timid preppies; to the final year, matured and preteen, thinking they know it all.
The journey isn’t always smooth, with some set for a trickier passage than others. But if you’re prepared as parents, you’ll be able to support and guide your child through the tough times – with both of you coming out the other end stronger and wiser.
When your child starts school, she leaves the peaceful familiarity of home for a new and daunting world. It’s a major step of independence. She learns some harsh truths; that the world isn’t flat, clouds aren’t made of candy floss and that learning to read can be really really hard. She’s mingled together with a mish mash of personalities and egos, each fighting to assert their place in the pecking order. She adopts habits and behaviours that are out of character and unseemly. When you rush to greet her for pick up, she may have turned into the devil child. At times, you question whether she is, in fact, your child at all.
Even though you’re tempted to call Missing Persons, remain calm and clear-headed. Your child is tired, hungry and dealing with a major adjustment.
After a full day in the classroom, no child needs a Spanish Inquisition on the journey home. What she really needs is rest and food.
By grade 2, your child is feeling more settled. He’s slotted into a routine and has learned some things about himself. He’s great at science and handball. He’s creative and strong (although, not quite as fast as he thought he was; there’s some serious talent out there).
The playground is separated into cliques of friends. Your child is nestled amongst the nerd group – and you’re okay with this (nerds, after all, make all the money when they grow up). There’s one child you can’t help feel concerned about. He’s mean and bosses your child about. You try to devise a scheme to separate them – but your son has none of it and you can’t help wonder what happened to your devoted, innocent child.
Don’t panic. It may feel as though you’re no longer the apple in your child’s eye, but you’ll be the first person he turns to when he’s out of his depth.
Try not to intervene too much – your child is learning to interact with all types of personalities. Instead, encourage him to be assertive and stand up to his bossy friend.
The playground can be a cruel, harsh place.
By grade 4, your child’s friends have banned together refusing to let her play with them. They say mean things and blurt out rude words, even though none of them actually know what they mean.
Your child learns about resilience. She seeks refuge in a quiet corner with the other victims of isolation (and soon learns they’re more interesting to be around anyway).
Help her understand that other people’s meanness isn’t about her, but about them and their own insecurities.
Give lots of cuddles.
By grade 6, your child has climbed to the top. He’s ruler of the roost, king of his kingdom – and preparing to start all over again at the bottom in secondary school. The odd pimple pops up on his chin, his voice is hitting notes you never knew existed and he’s in love with a girl named Josie. It’s the end of an era, goodbye to friends he’s known for years. He’s ready, excited and nauseous about high school…
Puberty is taking kids young these days, so make sure you’re both ready. If it hasn’t started to kick in, your child is probably praying for the day it does. Even though they’ll cringe and try to squirm their way out of it, make sure you talk to them about the changes happening to them (hint: when it’s just the two of you in the car, they have no way out…).
Be organised about high school. Make sure books and uniform are ordered in advance and keep an open dialogue with your child, talking through anxieties and concerns.
Above all, primary school is a wonderful experience in your child’s life – so embrace it. Involve yourself in the school community so that you know what’s happening and make an effort to get to know the parents of your child’s friends.
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