A school may not be every child’s playground. How can you tell if they are settling down well in school?
Signs that indicate your child may be struggling at school
- Lack of social competence
When a child or infant is able to get along with others and adjust to new environments, they are known to be socially competent. It is through their early childhood that they learn social skills including eye contact, the ability to recreate facial expressions and reacting appropriately to voices.
A lack in social competence observed as children grow could be their way of avoiding school or a reaction caused by anxiety. Everyone has had ‘butterflies in the stomach’ prior to doing something nerve-wrecking, and children similarly undergo this experience although they may not fully understand where it comes from. An episode from time to time is not uncommon, but it is a cause for concern if it happens often. Certain outcomes of these episodes caused by stress are: pacing up and down, feeling queasy, having sweaty palms and the regular stomachache.
- Increased nervousness and neediness
This could be seen in the form of behavioural ticks which could include nail-biting or thumb-sucking that indicate nervous behavior. Neediness, however, could be expressed in more subtle ways. Children, who tend to be more attention seeking, can be extremely particular about the smallest of things and burst into tantrums when their demands are not met. This could be categorised as ‘needy’.
A respectful, responsive and relational environment is important to instill confidence in children. Having constant communication and fostering a strong relationship with your child’s teachers can help get to the root of the problem and reduce their anxiety. Attending parent-teacher meetings, and check in regularly with the teachers on your child’s behavior in class. Becoming more involved in your child’s education allows you to be better equipped in knowing how to better support and encourage your child.
- Abnormally quiet behaviour
Take notice of your child’s response when you bring up any school-related matters. If they are unusually silent about a new peer they have made or even appear fearful about their experiences, it could mean they are facing difficulties in school. They might be isolating themselves from their friends, which is a strong indication that they are having issues communicating with their classmates or even their teachers.Children are usually excited about returning to school to be with their classmates and teachers.
However, if you sense boredom or disinterest over attending school, probe further. Bring the matter up to the teacher so they will be able to assist with any problems that lie in interacting with your child’s classmates.
What can you do to help your child relieve their school anxiety?
You can help by identifying the cause of anxiety your child is facing. It could be the fear of interacting with his classmates or even participating in class. Teach your child how to handle the problem instead of eliminating it. Parents themselves are good support systems for their child by constantly being pillars of support for them in their times of need. This also helps to build the foundation of trust that would be beneficial in the long-term – equipping children with the knowledge that they could depend on their parents to talk about their problems and face them together.
Signs that indicate your child is enjoying school
- Surge in independence
Signs that show keenness and excitement in attending school include wanting to go to bed early to have a bright start the next day and being motivated on their own to get ready for school.
Leave children to do their own thing from time to time. As part of their development, your child will gain more confidence to complete tasks on their own.
It is important to continuously encourage your child and expose them to life skills such as taking care of one-self and others. This prepares them for independence and good decision making; knowing what to do in daily situations as well as how to make good decisions and long-term choices.
See also: Teaching our children to be independent
Being comfortable with the learning environment at home is also important in nurturing your child’s independence. Areas should be well designed to propel children to their potential in discovering their environment. This includes their own physical capacities when they crawl, stand, slide and climb.
- Curiosity and eagerness to learn
As you check-in with your child about their day at school, listen to the tone of their voice as they narrate their stories. If they are cheerful and excited about their day, or if they are reluctant to part with their friends at school, it is a clear indicator that they are happy with the school environment, their teachers and classmates.Another sign is when children are excited to share and show a new skill they have learnt at school.
When they are able adopt and apply skills learnt in school at home. It shows they understand what is taught and are eager to show you what they have learned at school.The experience of school can be scary for both children and parents. Be there to offer your support and encouragement to your child, not just in the first few weeks of school, but even after they are well-adjusted. It will help a long way in helping your child ease into a new environment in the future.
Contributed by Crystal Lim, Principal of Kinderland Preschool at Marine Parade
This was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine