'Use your intuition' - Norfolk counsellor answers parents concerns over being back at school
PUBLISHED: 11:18 20 September 2019
Worried about your child being back at school? From making friends to bullying, Cathy Cookson of The Green Room Therapy answers some of your concerns.
What if my child doesn't make friends?
Children are so good at making friends, so much better than adults actually!
Between the ages of 5-9 children are becoming more aware of their peers and social cues as they develop. As a result they are super aware of others' feelings and generally support each other when someone is on their own or not interacting.
Schools are also fantastic at getting children to interact with each other, with many subtle ways to encourage it at playtimes and lunchtimes.
As parents we can help our children by talking through ways to interact, getting them involved in after-school clubs, having peers over for tea etc.
My daughter is moving schools because she was bullied at her last school, how can I convince her this will be different?
Bullying can have lasting effects on a person as it labels our perception of self. If the situation is still raw realise that it will take time and perseverance to actively break down these perceptions and work on rebuilding their new opportunities moving forward as the old experiences become less and less emotionally charged.
This is a fresh start and so set them up for all the positives they have gained from the experience. You may ask them: What have you learned about yourself with this experience? What has it actually given you? How might you use what has been learned to help you moving forward?
Encourage them to see life as a learning curve and understand that, sadly, many people experience bullying at school at one time or another, but it doesn't need to negatively define you if you don't let it.
My teenage daughter is refusing to wear the knee-length regulation school skirt, how can I avoid a battle every day?
Good question, and I remember this one well! For the record it is not my place to suggest how anyone parents their child, however, what you are experiencing with this example (and a thousand more) is the inevitable power tug of war struggle all parents face as their children become more independent.
The bigger picture answer is that while children may feel they are old enough to know best, do they? If you give into the skirt what's next?
Boundaries and respect for each other's expectations aren't usually something that just happen - they are demonstrated by the parent to the child for life.
So that being said, have a conversation, explain what it is that you would hope and expect from them and why these rules are in place at school. Suggest other ways in which they can express themselves/what they wear outside of school and work towards a win-win result for both of you.
What do I do if I think my child is struggling to keep up with the work?
Talk with your child first and foremost, it encourages open communication and trust which they will respect you for. If they confirm this (or deny it, but you are unsure) arrange to speak with their teacher/head of year as it may be that there is supporting information that could be of benefit to know.
If there is nothing that comes from this/nothing obvious, get involved, it may be that they are struggling with time management, understanding or confidence - either way you will get to the bottom of it and be in a position to help.
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How can I convince my child to consider other schools when we're choosing high schools? She won't even go to the open days.
I'm a firm believer when choosing schools to visit as many as you can because you just get a vibe for them this way.
If your child is not keen to visit any of the open days because they have already decided on one, encourage a breezy 'let's just go look' approach. You can explain that they may be right, but to be able to be 100pc sure it's wise to try before you buy and go and check them out.
If they are right this will make no difference. It may however also open their eyes to more opportunities that they may not be aware of yet, so a win-win. This way they should have no reason to not go along with it.
My son is going to high school and I'm going to miss the primary school playground catch ups, should I be feeling so bereft?
Any end of an era with your children can feel exactly like this (I have always been the one crying at every school assembly) as it marks another of life's milestones. It has been, after all, not just your child who's been coming to school - it's been you too!
If you have made a great bunch of friends yourself it doesn't have to stop here if you don't want it to. Arrange for a regular catch up with the people you've connected to, take a moment to reflect on how much your child has grown (get emotional if you want to) and recognise how you have helped them to achieve this next exciting stage of their lives.
My 11-year-old son is extremely anxious about everything, from losing his stuff to changing for PE, what can I do?
This type of anxiety is usually triggered by a feeling of being out of control and not yet confident within a new routine and is very common.
Firstly, explain this to him and help him to figure out positive ways to help him to take one step at a time. This will, of course, be personal to the child, but for the examples given reassure the concerns by offering solutions.
It may be you assure him that if any of his things went missing they are easily replaceable, and that's ok, no one will be cross if that were to happen because it's very unusual and you know he will do his best.
Most children will feel exactly the same way about getting changed for PE, but he was brave enough to say it, and you are really proud of that. After a few weeks it will become more usual to everyone and so much so he may even wonder what he was ever worried about in the first place. Change is always going to feel overwhelming and it's simply a case of getting into a new routine which in turn will ease anxiety and build confidence as time goes by. Remember habits only take three weeks to form, so power through one step at a time.
How will I know if my child is being bullied?
Usually you will see a change in their behaviour, habits, body language - if so, as their parent you will have an intuition that something just feels a little off.
Keep an eye on anything that feels unusual and, most importantly, work on and encourage regular open and non-judgemental communication. A really effective way to do this is to keep it light, it can be tempting to offer a 'let's chat about your day' conversation, but a lot of children can find this too much pressure to know what exactly to say.
It may be you offer up something about your day that engages them, to then follow it up with a few probing questions about who they hung out with, was it a positive day or did any drama happen? Use your intuition, you will know.
Thanks to Cathy Cookson, counsellor and founder of Norfolk-based The Green Room Therapy. www.thegreenroomtherapy.com