We take an expert's help to address some of the most common problems a preschooler might face in school. Read on to know more.
By Leena Ghosh
As your child takes his first steps through the gates of his playschool, a million thoughts may run through your head. “Will he like school?”, “Will he make friends?”, “Will he be OK without me?” are just some of the questions you may ask yourself repeatedly.
Most playschool coordinators and teachers understand these worries and help allay the fears and doubts of both parent and the child. But, there are still some problems your child may face during his preschool years, which you will need to address.
Dr Arundhati Swamy, counsellor from Chennai and Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle, explains the common problems preschoolers face in school and how parents can help overcome them.
Common problems your child may face in school
1. Separation anxiety
It’s normal for a child to have separation anxiety when he enters school for the first time. It’s a big step that the toddler takes when he leaves the familiar, safe and comfortable environs of his home and family, and steps into an entirely new and unfamiliar space, that is, school. Quite naturally, he will feel quite intimidated by the new building, classroom, teachers and classmates. He may feel anxious about being all alone without your protective presence, the familiar toys and spaces, and the freedom and confidence to do what he likes; while you, as a parent, in your own anxiety to see your child settle down quickly at school, may try to convince him about how nice the school is, and how he should be brave and not cry.
You should first show empathy by saying to the child, “I know you are afraid,” and giving a warm hug. Next, you can help the child to name all the feelings he has about the new school – fear, worry, sadness and so on. Help him explain in his own way what makes him feel these emotions. Accept these emotions and ask him what help you can give him. Most importantly, give him enough time to settle down in the school and do not compare him with other children. Remember, anxiety is a combination of fear, worry and nervousness. Make sure that you, as parents, first deal with your own anxiety; else, you will pass it on to the child.
2. Making friends
A child’s confidence grows in a home where parents are loving and caring, and she is allowed to do simple things for herself, explore her world safely and be curious. Also, the positive and encouraging ways in which family members communicate with each other, teach the child how to talk to other children and get on well with them. The child, thus, learns to be respectful, cooperative and helpful when interacting with playmates.
3. Relating to the teacher
No matter how much you prepare your childfor the transition, he can still have natural fears and worries about going to school. To help him with it, you can take him for outings where he gets to see more people and school buildings. If possible, a visit to his school prior to the opening day will be helpful. Also, give him opportunities to play and interact with many children in the neighbourhood or at the local park. Once he starts school, talk to him about his teachers and caregivers – what he likes about them and what he does not. Be a good listener and tell him you understand and accept his thoughts and feelings. If your child needs special care for health reasons, be sure to tell his teachers about it. Describe your child to the teacher so that she begins to understand her new student.
4. Difficulty in communicating
Ensure that the school and teachers allow your child to speak in her mother tongue, till she learns to express herself in English. Talk to her in English at home. Translate the sentences into your mother tongue if required, to help her understand the meaning of the English words. This will help her become familiar with the language. Most importantly, have fair expectations from your child. And, every time she learns a new word or attempts to speak the language, appreciate her efforts. Do not criticise or make fun of her attempts. Teach her how to greet adults and classmates as it will help her start conversations.
5. Adjusting to the school environment
Be understanding and allow your child to express his natural feelings. Encourage him to talk about his discomfort. Sometimes, just hugging children (even when they are whining) will give them the comfort they are seeking. Be patient and give him time to adjust to the new environment. What seems simple and easy for us, is, in fact, a huge change for him. Reassure him as much as he needs it. The way he adapts to this change will lay the foundation for adjusting later on as he grows up.
6. Working in a group
A child needs lots of happy experiences at school for her to want to go back every day. Children who come from a stable, nurturing home environment are known to settle well in school. They are also known to make friends and enjoy playing with them. When they are regular to school, they develop a sense of belonging with their class. They build a bond with their teachers. This secure feeling at school helps them be more cooperative and helpful. Eating and sharing snacks with their friends is a valuable social skill they learn at school.
7. Eating difficulties
Encourage your child to learn to eat on his own, messy as it may be. Though feeding your child is easier and takes less time, it does not teach him how to take care of himself. Teach him how to open his snack box and water bottle. These skills will make him feel capable. A child who has other people doing everything for him feels helpless and begins to think he is not as capable as others. Pack healthy finger foods that are easy and quick to eat. Do not pack more than what he usually eats, but pack a few extras if he wants to share with his friends.
Playschool is just the beginning of your child’s academic life. As he grows, he may face more complex challenges. As a parent, you can help by always being involved and interested in his school life and being open to communication. When he knows that he can always come to you in case of problems, he’ll be more confident about facing up to these challenges.
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