Can you remember your first day of school? I can. It was the 1980s, at Geraldine Primary, and I was showing the girls in my class how I could swing upside down on the jungle gym.
The only problem was, despite my eagerness to quickly impress these people I didn’t know, I’d never been on bars before, and fell almost instantly onto my back, painfully winding myself. I haven’t been on the bars since.
I’m sure there are better ways for children to introduce themselves to others at school, perhaps with a bit more grace. But what about those children who lack the confidence to venture out and make friends?
It seems that no matter how many children they may know already at school, having been to kindy with them, or recognising them from down the street, it really means nothing to a little five-year-old.
When they first start school, their classroom is their sanctuary, and if the classroom has been locked for playtime, then outside the classroom is their safe spot.
We can’t expect our children to know exactly what to do and fend for themselves – except if they’re super confident, or have older siblings at the school to care for them.
But for those little ones who are super shy, and are afraid to play with kids they do know because they don’t know their new friends, here are some ideas:
- Be there for your child. If you can literally be there for a couple of playtimes or lunchtimes, during your child’s school visits, then do so! Give them ideas about where it’s safe for them to play (especially if their school goes up to Year 8).
- Chat with them. Ask them, at playtimes, where would you like to play? The sandpit looks like a great spot for five-year-olds to hang out. Did you see the basketball hoop outside your area – that looks like a fun thing to do at lunchtime, etc.
- Ask the teacher. Good teachers will ensure their shy new entrants are being looked after by a buddy in the class. Keep asking the teacher how they’re going socially.
- Don’t make a big deal about it if they say they didn’t play with anyone. Remind your child that it’s OK to just stand back and watch until they’re comfortable to play. This is a brand new environment for them, and they’re still trying to feel part of it.
And for those parents who already have school-aged children, why not teach your child to be who they needed when they started school? Instead of asking your child: what did you do today? Ask them, what difference did you make to someone else’s day? Encourage them to befriend the new kid; invite him to play with you; is she too shy to play with your group? Invite her to the sandpit – just the two of you.
There is so much to be said about a parent who encourages their kid to be kind.