Changes to Expect When Your Child Starts School
Starting school means several changes in a child's life. Even the start of homeschooling brings change. This article gives information on what changes to expect when your child starts school, and how to handle the changes.
Starting school is a big deal. New friends, new experiences, new information, but along with the good things are some things you may not like, such as the new vocabulary your child gets from the new friends. What else can you expect when your child starts school?
For home schooled children, the changes are less, but starting school can be a significant change in a child’s life, bring many new experiences, and a new awareness. Here is a list of some things to be aware of as a child starts school.
School is likely to require different kinds of attention and energy and your child may arrive home more tired (and possibly cranky) than you’re accustomed to. A snack and a transition time may be helpful in dealing with this. Also, simply pointing out to your child that his or her day is different and he or she may feel different may be helpful, so that he or she can develop realistic expectations.
Clinging or Acting Out
School can present many new challenges to a child, and this may result in unexpected behavior changes. Without being able to voice what is on his or her mind your child may resort to some behaviors that you would not expect. This may be a short-lived transitional phase. If you find your child clinging or acting out and it continues, it probably has some source, so try talking through your child’s day with him or her or, if you feel its appropriate, speak to someone at the school.
It’s true for all of us that when everyone around us does things the same way, we may think that it’s the way to do things. In school, children may, for the first time encounter other approaches: people who have different ideas about how much space they need around them, what kind of food is good to eat, what kind of clothing should be worn. It is important to name these phenomena for your child, and to, as appropriate, distinguish cultural choices from values. People from different places have different approaches, and cultural sensitivity can be learned from such encounters.
Values and Choices
It’s also true that your child is likely to encounter children with values that are not consistent with your family values. He or she will find children with heroes you don’t consider heroic, who watch television shows and movies and listen to music that you consider inappropriate, and who use language that you do not wish your child to use. You may also find your child asking for food that is not just from a different culture, but food that you consider to be junk food, and to wish to wear clothing that you consider too revealing, or offensive for other reasons.
While your values may have been largely implicit heretofore - lived without being discussed - you may now need to make them explicit and explain your choices to your child in a way that he or she can understand.
Different Role with Siblings
Going to school, you can expect that your child may adopt a different role with his or her siblings. He or she may feel more camaraderie with siblings who are older and also attending school, and adopt a protective or mentoring or bossy role toward younger siblings. This is an area to keep an eye on: yes, life is different for your child as a school attendee, and he or she may need some help translating his or her school experience into good choices in his or her relationships at home.
Quoting the Teacher
You may feel the difference as well. How many parents have found their own advice and counsel ignored, while their child tells them, “Mr. Jasper said” or “Ms. Lucas said.” Children need to appreciate their teacher’s authority, it’s true, but they also need to know what areas their teacher has power in and where parents are the guides and mentors. You can gently help them to understand this and - as time goes on - that no adult is ever always right, which it’s why it’s important for children to learn to think for themselves.
Written by Mary Elizabeth