Well, that’s it now! School is officially out for the summer as the amazing Alice cooper once said – apologies for the ear bug!!
As a school counsellor, my work does not always end when school ends. Increasingly, I find myself working with children who are making the scary transition from Primary School to High School and are, frankly, terrified!
You’re 10 or 11 years old. You’ve made it through your first school experience. You’ve made friends. You’ve established yourself as a big fish in a little pond…
Suddenly, you’re a very little fish in a very, very big pond! Despite your physical size, you are now very strictly at the bottom of the pile! Yikes!
In all fairness to you brilliant parents out there, you are probably more afraid than your little angels of what they are about to go through. After all, you’ve been there! You’ve been jostled along the corridor by giants with floppy hair and braces, or, you’ve been asked “what are you staring at?” by prickly girls whilst they try and hide their nails from teacher.
In this, the first of a series of helping hacks for parents and their Year 6’s, I want to focus on you as a parent.
Here are some do’s
And. More importantly, some don’ts
We all do this…
“When I was at school, this happened”… “When I was at school that happened”
“My Mum told me to do this”… “My Dad told me to do that”
You get the picture?
First of all, that was probably anywhere between 10 and 20 years ago and we all know (because our kids are always telling us!) how out of touch we are and how things have moved on and changed over the last few years in terms of social media mostly.
You need to make a separation between yourself and your child. They are not you and you are not them.
You still have the precious and short-lived power of knowing your child better than they know themselves. Please use this superpower wisely.
Think about your child. As much as you probably want him or her to be a perfect mini me of you or your partner, they are not! And thank you to the Human Race, we are all different! This means that we all react differently. If you get this bit right, you could be on your way to being a slightly above average embarrassing parent!
Take some time to observe how your child typically reacts to new things at home. Do they take a while to get their head around something or are they straight in at the deep end?
Does your child use anger or humour to help them through difficulty? Or do they retreat and want to be alone?
Believe it or not, their personality type will already be forming and, try as you might to impose your way of doing things on them, it will not work!
This is where your superpower of knowing your child will come into use. Please match it with a drastically under-used superpower which is to NOT use your own experience to dictate next steps.
Once you have the magic ingredients which are that you have truly managed to separate your own childhood from your child and you have carefully considered how they react to change, you are ready to weave your magic.
Ok, it’s not quite as dramatic and certainly not as easy as that!
- Start by opening up a conversation with your child. This is best done over an activity which (if you’re really imaginative!!) could be linked to the topic of starting High School.
In any event, it’s much easier to get information out of children and young adults whilst they are engaging in an activity (trust me! And my 98 broken pens!!)
- You may even want to ask in the third person or ask about one of their friends and how they are feeling. The key here is to help them to open up about how they feel without judgement.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRY AND FIX THIS FOR THEM!!!!!
YOU ARE EITHER DIS-ABLING THEIR OWN SOLUTION-MAKING SKILLS OR AT RISK OF BECOMING TOO DEPENDENT ON THEIR WEAKNESSES
For more information, see my forthcoming blog on parenting mistakes
- Ensure that your child feels listened to, ask them if they want to write down some words or draw some pictures to show how they feel
Remember that this may bring out some negative behaviour as your child will be feeling anxious so be a little bit lenient. A good sentence may be… “I know you’re upset / angry / sad, but it’s not helpful if you throw things or shout at me. I understand so let’s talk some more about what is making you so upset / angry / sad”
- Once you have finished speaking to your child (try and keep discussions to little and often rather than a mammoth 30 minute interrogation), tell them that you have heard them and that you will talk again.
Obviously not permanently, that’s just irresponsible! :-0
Leave the conversation there. This may be the hardest part for you as a parent but you have 6 weeks to work this through. You can’t solve it, your child (with your support) will come through it stronger and more resilient.
And here’s the magical bit… most of that strength and resilience will come from knowing they can talk to you without judgement any time they need to.
Try this out and please let me know now you get on!
Look out for more in this series for parents and children and not forgetting you wonderful young adults out there! There will also be some handy titbits for you coming soon.
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