Passing to the 5th grade - 5 Tips for Parents
Getting back to school after more than 2 months of vacation can be very exciting for some kids, but very stressful for others. Especially if they will change school, cycle or class! So much change overnight. Therefore, the passage to the 5th grade is a critical moment in a child's growth. Most kids change schools, and whether they go with friends or alone, worries like these can fill their heads: “Will I be able to make friends? Will I get good grades? Now that I'm going to be the youngest, how are the older students going to treat me? I bet the teachers won't be our friends like in Primary school… With so many classes and homework, when will I have time to play?”…
Apart from the changes in the exterior, their interiors are also changing. Puberty begins to arrive, for some early for others later, curiosity about sexuality tends to arise, crushes and dating become a central topic of conversation. With this also arises the need to belong to a group, to be popular, to find one's place in the 'social hierarchy'. And from there, bullying behaviors can set in without anyone being aware of it.
Calm down, I'm not trying to scare parents! But if you thought your kids were already on "autopilot" and you just needed to remind them to do their homework, I’m sorry to tell you that you are wrong… This is a pivotal age when your children will need support, even if it seems they no longer want it. In this transition period from childhood to adolescence, they will have many doubts, test many limits and make many mistakes! Therefore, you as a parent are essential to help them create healthy habits and positive relationships.
Each child goes through this phase differently, for some it is the best years of youth, for others it is the dark years that they prefer to forget. In my case, it was not an easy stage: I moved from school alone, to a class where almost everyone already had groups formed. I did not identify at first with my colleagues, and it took me a long time to find my place. I started to relate to a group of colleagues from another class, but there I was also uncomfortable, relationships were toxic, and bullying was covert but always present. I eventually devoted myself to school and focused on getting good grades, which helped me deal with the frustrations of social life. Only later could I find good friendships and people with whom I felt happy.
Now, at my work as a No Bully Portugal trainer, I spend time with many 5th grade and older students, and I easily see similar situations where certain students are excluded because they are new or different, where older colleagues take advantage of young to buy them their lunch or steal their soccer ball, where aggressions and insults to the weaker are recurrent. Despite all this I observe, I also see a great potential for kindness, affection, respect and friendship in these kids, they are not little monsters! But such potential is only unleashed if their surroundings are positive, and parents are their first examples and supporters. So here are some tips on how to support your child at this stage:
- Talk about their expectations and fears - As much as we want to generalize, every child is unique, only if you talk to your child will you know what's on their mind. Without being too inquisitive, ask them how they think this new year will be, if they feel prepared, if they have something worrying them. Topics such as friendships, classes, teachers, extracurricular activities, among others, can be interesting to explore. Try to remember your experience at this age: what worried you? What helped you overcoming that?
- Remind them that they can count on you - it is always a comfort to know that our parents are there to support us when things are not going well! Show them that they can talk to you about any problem and you will help them find a solution, even when they do something wrong. If they are afraid of being punished or harshly reprimanded, they will prefer not to tell you, and thus the trust and communication between the two will be cut off. By that I don't mean to pat them on the back if they skip classes for no reason, of course! But understanding why they did it (it may be because they feel excluded in class, or to impress a colleague, or because a teacher treats them less well) and finding a way for them not to repeat the mistake is the most important.
- Teach them how to be in a group and to choose good friends - "How do I know if he really is my friend?" Not all of us are born with the ability to make friends everywhere we go, some need a little help! Some are too aggressive and push away the ones who might be their friends, others easily become submissive and accept abuse from their peers, and there are also those who cut themselves off from the world and wait for others to come to them. These behaviors are not eternal and may vary depending on the environment your child is in. Watch for signs of irritability, heightened sadness, or greater aggressiveness, which may mean that things are not going well in school. Ask them about their classmates, who they are most often with, what they like to do during breaks, who sits with them in class… Tell them what a good friend is and how to be nice and open to meeting people who are different from them. Encourage them to arrange activities with their colleagues, but also to know when to say “no” to something they don't like.
- Show them that learning can be fun and exciting - as you go to 5th grade, the demands from teachers are much bigger, homework increases and play time shortens considerably. “How boring!” Would most kids say. True, some classes can be boring and no one likes to have more work overnight. While it is important for your child to keep up with classes and not fall behind on the subjects, it is also beneficial to manage the pressure at home, to accept that they don't have to have top grade in all subjects. When feeling more relaxed and comfortable, there is more room to explore the applications that subjects have in real life, for example math in grocery bills, or science in the park by the house, or English in the movies they love - so many interesting things to learn! Show them that they can be good at just about anything, they just need to work and believe in themselves. Praise their efforts and make them proud of themselves for the small victories. Explain to them the importance of education for their future life, for what they can achieve if they want to - the sky is the limit! (except if they want to be astronauts, then there are no limits at all).
- Motivate them to get involved in clubs and sports - most schools and educational centers offer a variety of extra-curricular activities, some even free of charge. These moments can be very beneficial for strengthening friendships and developing skills that complete their education. And they are a great alternative to spending the afternoons watching TV or playing computer games alone at home. Explore the options with them and motivate them to try new things within what they show interest in. However, avoid filling 100% of your children's free time with activities, leave room to be with them and relax with the family!
With these 5 tips, which don't require a lot of effort or time, you can make a huge difference in your child's life at this very important stage of adaptation! Will you try it out? I would love to know how it work out with your children!
Visionary Pacifist at No Bully Portugal
For more questions about bullying prevention and resolution: email@example.com