January is the month for new beginnings. Children are on their way back to school. This is an exiting time for most youngsters and many of them can not wait to return to school, getting into a new class, having different teachers and seeing old- and new friends.
Is your child entering into the formal school system for the first time? Is he ready to do so? Is your child exited about the fact that he is going to school and that he will learn to read and to write? For those of you who are grade one parents for the first time, are you ready to join your child on the journey for the next 12 years?
Which adjustments from Grade R is your child facing this year? To name a few – being placed in a class with more or less 30 known and unknown children, an unknown teacher, adjusting to a daily routine that has less time to play and socialize with friends. Young children need to be able to sit still at a desk for 20 – 30 minutes, not being allowed to speak whenever they want to and to listen and respond on the teacher’s explanations and instructions. Others might find it highly challenging to sit still and concentrate on the task at hand. These children are often labeled as being hyperactive – which might not be true. There are numbers of reasons why children are active in class. Feelings of uncertainty, separation anxiety, being overwhelmed by the newness of everything may be some of the reasons why the children are restless and unable to focus on the work at hand.
As a parent you need to encourage your child to express his own feelings regarding his experience of school. Create a safe environment at home in which he has the courage to tell you about his experiences concerning the teacher, his friends, and the work he does in class. As a parent listen carefully to the messages being voiced about good friends and those that tend to be less nice towards your child. Listen carefully to the way your child deals with these children and whether you as a parent needs to step in when your child is being bullied.
An understanding and supportive attitude from both parents will assist the child to adapt to the formal school system. Guide your child to understand that he has an active role to play in his own scholastic development. Make your child aware of the fact that the knowledge being taught contributes to the optimal development of his abilities and skills and that everything being taught is a small step towards becoming the person God has meant him to be. A child who gets to know school as an opportunity to gain knowledge and skills, develop interests and values his personality and his future will be enthusiastic to face the challenges ahead.
A stressful start in grade 1 may impact on the way your child will feel about school. Any negative comments being made by teachers and the children should be addressed in an understanding way. Whenever professional help is recommended by the teachers it should be taken to heart. Many Educational Psychologists are available to guide both parents and children through their first year of adjustment and eventual long-term wellbeing.