The funny thing about having your child start school is the fact that you have to ‘go back to school’ also. To get to this point in your life, you must have survived the school playground the first time around, but whether or not you wanted to return is a completely different matter! Not only does your child have to navigate the often choppy waters of the school playground, so do you. That means new friends, new foes, and even new frenemies.
Diving back into the world of playground politics might be a bit of a shock to the system. Especially if you can get anxious in social situations. When first approaching the school gates it can feel like you are back in high school with groups of Mums talking, and divided into their own little groups. It can be intimidating and lonely. You might also feel like your child’s social stature depends on which of the parents you befriend at pick up and drop off.
But the reality is, all of the parents are in the same boat as you. They might have established social groups because they already have older children at the school. Or, they might be just as anxious as you, with the same fears about being ‘liked’ of ‘judged’. The important thing is to smile and be open to interaction. You might just end up with some new friends. Like anywhere, there will be some parents who aren’t your cup of tea, but avoid those ones in favour of the ones you do get on with.
“I don’t want to be your friend any more”, those words can slice through your child’s heart like a knife. And unfortunately, it’s a common playground phrase. But how do you help them deal with the heartache and navigate the waters of childhood friendships?
Your child needs to be ready for the playground, and this takes a bit of practice. There seems to be a long list of skills that your child might possess before heading out into the playground…
- Initiate conversation
- Join in a group
- Take turns
- Understand and follow the rules in a game
- Co-operate with others
- Be able to assert their opinion while still listening to others
- Show empathy
- Be a good sport
The great thing is, most children will pick these skills up naturally at kindergarten, preschool, or on playdates with friends.
Unfortunately, bullying or picking on each other is part of the playground. So here are a few skills to help your child deal with the playground bully
1. Teach your child to always respect others, this will give them strong values and allow them to act appropriately when they see disrespect happening. You can teach them self-respect with positive reinforcement, and leading by example.
2. Role play situations at home so that your child will know how to deal with them if they arise. Also, you can practice phrases that clearly tell the bully to stop, ‘Leave me alone’, ‘That wasn’t nice’, or similar things.
3. Have an open line of communication with your child so that they can tell you what is going on and if anything is bothering them.
4. Encourage your child to stand up for themselves and their friends. A child standing up to a bully is far more powerful than an adult reprimanding.
5. Report repeated or severe bullying. Your child’s school will have a bullying policy, so read up on it and ask for assistance from the school if required. You can also seek support from your local police, community resources, or a family therapist.
The school playground can feel difficult to navigate for both child and parent. Great communication is the key to survival, your child being able to effectively communicate with their peers, and being able to communicate with you at home. You will hear stories of heartache about who said what, and who did this. Often you can feel helpless. Just remember that children will be able to sort out most disagreements themselves. Only become involved yourself if the behaviour seems overly unreasonable, or dangerous.