Development stages primary school

By the time your child enters school, they’ve developed enough independence and understanding to enable them to cope away from their parents for a certain length of time. While each child varies and some will find the transition very difficult, it’s important that children of this age become used to being away from their parents in order to establish relationships with people outside of the family. And this period in your child’s life isn’t just about them; many parents feel a profound sense of loss when their child starts primary school. Rest assured however that this is completely normal and you can be proud of all of the good work you’ve done to raise a child who is ready for the next stage of their life.

Take the time to get to know your child

It sounds obvious but every child is as different and unique as any adult. Some are introverted while others are the life of the classroom. It’s easy to make assumptions about who our child will be as adults, but early patterns can change and shift over the course of the primary school years.

What can I do?

Get to know your child’s world by spending time with them on a one-to-one basis. Read, enjoy arts and crafts or sports, or play a game together as often as you can. While it’s not always easy to juggle work and home, spending time with your child builds closeness and helps to lay stable foundations for the future, which is especially important at this stage of their lives.

Don’t feel surplus to requirements!

Despite the fact that your child is starting to move towards independence, they still need you more than ever to help them make sense of their world.

What can I do?

Try and recall how you felt when you started school and what the experience was like over the years. What worried you? What made you happy? If you have difficulty pinning it down, ask your friends and family for their memories and keep them in mind; chances are your child is experiencing the same. This is a good start to helping your child talk about their hopes and anxieties during this transition – and why not share your own positive experiences of your school years – this can allay any concerns they might have.

Recognise that your child is likely to move between feeling confident and feeling overwhelmed by their new environment at school. Be on hand to boost their confidence and let them know that you’re proud of the way that they’re adjusting.

Get to know their friends

Peer groups are becoming more and more important to children of this age group and it’s important that you try and include their friends in activities whenever possible.

What can I do?

Play dates are ideal because you have the chance to get to know your child’s friends with the added bonus of meeting their parents. Play dates also offer you a picture of how well your child is socialising with others. Being involved in this aspect of your child’s life at this stage is essential for both your child’s development and your peace of mind.

Set clear boundaries

Children thrive when they have set rules and schedules to follow because they offer safety at a time when the world can seem a confusing and bewildering place. Your family’s own rules will have been in place since your child was a toddler but during this particular stage, your child will likely want to know why he or she has a set bedtime, must brush their teeth after meals, or help with simple chores.

What can I do?

Discussing the whys may seem counterproductive, especially if your child is going through a wilful stage, but keep in mind that consistency aids their development and gives them a sense of security. Young school aged children especially may find it difficult to understand complicated or inconsistent directions so do be careful when explaining rules to them. Even if your child is very advanced verbally, don’t assume that they understand what you want from them. Keep things brief, clear and calm.

While it’s tempting for parents to bend the rules a little when they’re tired or preoccupied, it’s important to focus on the child’s need for stability to build good habits later on.

Support your child daily

All children want their parents’ support and encouragement, particularly at this age and just starting school. They may find it hard to cope with the sheer amount of stimulation in a day – new people, new skills, new rules and new routines.

What can I do?

Help your child to build their confidence by concentrating on their special strengths, and encourage the ongoing development of skills outside of the classroom. Writing stories together, baking a cake, painting a picture or learning a new song together will go a long way to boosting their confidence and self-esteem even when they’re feeling out of their depth.

You can find more information on raising a happy and well-adjusted child through the primary school years by visiting the following websites.

Directgov

Offering information on choosing a school which best suits your child’s needs.

Mumsnet

A website offering useful tips and hints on preparing your child for school and supporting them throughout the journey.

Family Lives

Family Lives is a national charity providing help and support in all aspects of family life.