Being a parent AND a teacher is difficult. I had always assumed that having this profession behind me would enable a smooth transition to parenthood. I was wrong. ‘The book of Parenting’ is written by a completely different author to that of ‘The book of Teaching’.
However, over the past 3 and a half years (since my darling daughter has grown, changed and become a fully-fledged school goer) I have begun to write a new book. A book that combines the two. Which I will share with you now in the hope that it will help develop a confidence and a comfort when your child reaches nursery or school age.
Chapter 1 – Confidence for the Child: Starting at school or nursery for the first time can be daunting and sometimes stressful for children. Below are some tips I’ve known to work as a teacher and that I currently do with my daughter:
- The main thing is to reassure your child that you WILL be coming back and give an incentive for the end of the day. Describe something they will do when they come home. This can be as exciting as ‘having meatballs for dinner!’ Or a ‘quick trip to the park!’ Or simply to ‘play their favourite game.’
- Allow the child to see how happy you are for them to be there. They sense anxiety and feed on it. If there is something concerning you, pull the teacher aside out of the reach of tiny senses (eyes and ears mainly, although they will probably have something in their mouth too).
- Give them the boost of maturity that they need. Ok, the first few days/ maybe a week, you will enter their classroom domain and help with their endless accessories. After a week, allow them to be ‘grown up’, ‘big boy’, ‘just like mummy’ when they organise themselves (this will be harder for YOU – I know, but it helps them to feel like it is their own space.)
- Ensure they know you and the teacher are singing from the same hymn sheet (even at times you might not agree) they need to know you are a team!
Chapter 2 – Confidence for the Parent: Allowing someone else to care for, teach, enable and praise your child can be overwhelming. The likelihood is they will see your child for longer than you over the course of a working week. This can be a hard pill to swallow. Here are some things that can allow you to walk away with a spring in your step:
- Take the time to get to know your child’s teacher: Truth is… they work bloody hard! Longest hours, mountains of paperwork, endless meetings, barely any breaks, four sips of cold tea, 300 sticky fingers demanding attention. BUT, I can guarantee that they care. A whole lot. I would go as far as to say that most teachers view their class of children as THEIR children. I know I do. Knowing this will help you feel confident with the person in charge of your offspring so take a little time to find out about them.
- Teamwork with the school. This is something a lot of parents find hard. I can understand this now being a parent but trust me it is worth it. When something happens at school or nursery, something you don’t like, something that has upset your child you naturally go into “savage” mode. The key is to listen. If the situation hasn’t been dealt with the way you think it should there is usually a reason. Either, the story was told differently at the time; staff wanted to discuss it with all members involved before action is taken or simply, no one saw and things can get heated. But be comforted in the fact that everything is logged even if only in the teacher’s minds.
- Go easy on yourself. School is not a battle or competition. Children all learn and develop at their own rates. During preschool and nursery girls develop a lot faster and engage in social games more openly. However toward the end of infant school boys have already caught up showing off academic and physical talents. If you have genuine concerns about the development of your child then speak privately to the teacher. Chances are they are already aware and have strategies in place to encourage your child in different ways.
Chapter 3 – Together be Confident : The modern day child is already more developed than we think and they are aware of issues and excitements that occur at school. Take the time to listen to their concerns and let them know (no matter how small) they have been heard.
If you are keen to have this discussion with your child then below is a creative way to approach it. This is a really nice activity to do with your child and something I have done with my class at the start of a new year. It will allow them to confide their anxieties and excitements but also build their personal confidence (and may even surprise you!)
- Get a blank piece of paper and get them to draw themselves at the bottom.
- Discuss and list the things they are anxious about. It may be making new friends, wearing a uniform or being away from you. Note them down around the image, showing they have been heard.
- Next, discuss some solutions together, draw on your experiences from school and record them in a different colour (drawing little images will help younger children). Some anxieties may not have concrete solutions and they need to be aware of this.
- Then take a third colour, this one is important, ask your child to list positive traits about themselves. This can be as a simple as being smiley, friendly or even good at sports or art. Allow them to see that even though we have worries, we have things we will be bringing to school that others will want to learn. Allow children to understand that anxieties are real but we can support them in finding solutions.
Complete this activity again at the end of the year, looking back at the previous one, so the child can see that their anxieties were overcome and their talents will have increased. It will also enable to child to see that anxiety will come, go and change so they need to build their own bank of solutions. Self-confidence is built from within and although we, as teachers and parents, are there to allow children to have experiences, we cannot guarantee they will see it for themselves. These tips and activities will hopefully allow them to discover their confidence and for you to continue your pride.
“Teachers who love teaching teach children who love learning” – There has never been a quote that is so accurate to children in school. Having started Evelyn at full time school nursery it is clear that she is ready to learn, ready to be independent and ready grow. Not all children will have this feeling straight away. Don’t feel disheartened if your child is the one who cries, who won’t sit still or doesn’t quite know how to make friends. This is what school is for. This is why children attend. The teachers are qualified to ensure your children learn and sometimes that begins with helping them adjust to this new way of life.
I hope this has helped in some way, please leave a comment if you have found this useful or simply share it with someone who might need it 🙂