Schoolyard politics can be intimidating – our children need all the social confidence they can muster when dealing with bullies, cliques and rapidly changing friendships. While home should be a safe retreat from all the politics of playground friendships, there are some steps you can take to build your child’s confidence at home so they can stay resilient in difficult situations and handle problems proactively.
- Establish positive communication at home
When you set a good example to your children by handling conflict and obstacles productively, then they will learn to expect the same standard of open communication at school. However, if they are learning to pit one parent against another (“But Mummy said yes!) or play favourites (“You can’t tell me what to do! Only Daddy can!) they will try the same tricks at school.
When you set up familiar and simple family routines at home, the sense of consistency can be very reassuring to your children, who can rely on that consistency when other aspects of their life, such as school, seem very difficult to navigate.
- Get involved
Even the most confident child will come home from school sometimes saying “None of the other kids will play with me” or “The teacher doesn’t like me” or “Everyone else has the collector cards – how come you won’t buy them for me?” This can be very distressing to hear, so your best option is to build your own perspective. If possible, volunteer to help in the classroom so you can meet and observe your child’s peers in their own environment. This also gives you an opportunity to talk to the teacher directly and build up some positive communication in that direction!
Also take every opportunity to meet other parents – either outside the classroom at the end of the day, at school social events or by inviting your child’s friends over to play. Build a social network that will support your child’s social network at school.
- Explain how to ask for help
Talk to your child about some of the things that can go wrong at school – bullying is a huge issue that can be extremely distressing for children for all ages, but not all schoolyard nastiness classifies as bullying. Sometimes friendships fall apart suddenly within a recess, leaving one child with nobody to play with. Sometimes the teacher will get cross, and your child may be confused or upset or defensive.
You can help your child by talking through whatever happened during the day and attempting to find a manageable solution. Discuss whether the best solution is for your child to ask the teacher for help, or approach another friend to play with at lunch time, depending on the circumstances. If your child is dealing with a particularly hostile situation at school, then speak to the teacher yourself. Do NOT approach the other parent, as this can become very awkward. Friendship problems at school must be handled by the adult who watches over them at school.
- Help kids develop problem solving skills
If your child is experiencing recurring problems at school, you can discuss ways to make the issue more manageable. This helps the child gain a sense of control and perspective over the problem. For example, if they are struggling with reading or maths, find some fun activities to do at home, where you can encourage them to improve at their own pace. Playing board games as a family is a great way to improve maths skills while developing problem solving skills at the same time.
- Teach some self-calming strategies
Your child’s energy levels will probably not match the pace of school life – lesson time can drag on for a restless energetic child, while the constant noise and stimulation can be exhausting for someone who thrives on quiet time alone. Help your child recognize the signs of becoming stressed or overwhelmed and teach them some self-calming techniques such as breathing exercises, jumping up and down to shake the stress out, or relaxing from head to toe.