Congratulations – You have survived the wailing and gnashing of teeth that is babyhood, and now, finally, your child is entering the world of school. So, you can sit back and relax and get some work done around the house, safe in the knowledge that your child is being looked after and is surrounded by friends all day, right? Sorry, it doesn’t work like that.
The Social Difficulties of Childhood
If that is what childhood was like for you, then you were very fortunate because the reality is that this isn’t the case for most children. Fitting in is difficult, even when you have an abundance of social skills, let alone when you have to learn those skills from scratch. Child psychology also indicates that concepts that we as grownups take for granted are often still in development in childhood; concepts like empathy, compromise, or patience tend to only really develop closer to one’s teen years, and without them, formulating friendships and maintaining relationships can be extremely challenging. Bullying can, tragically, be an issue, even inadvertently, as children often have yet to develop a cognitive understanding of the consequences of their behavior toward others. Yet, just like adults, child social organization reflects hierarchical elements based on status and popularity, something which, unfortunately, will get even worse in their teen years as the toxicity of competitive dating, driven by raging hormones, storms onto the scene.
Part Parent, Part Psychotherapist
For most children, school life can be nothing short of traumatic, so one’s parenting strategy must adapt to reflect this. Finding the right balance between being a helicopter parent and being too hands-off is unbelievably challenging. However, counselors and psychotherapists usually maintain a professional distance from their patients for a good reason, to maintain objectivity and an unbiased opinion. It is tempting to actively interfere in one’s child’s struggling social life, but that is not your responsibility. Rather, it is to advise and teach them how to resolve their problems. However, one must also look for signs of genuine risks to one’s child’s safety or well-being, so one cannot take too much of a hands-off approach. Where this ‘line’ is, specifically, is anyone’s guess though.
The Holistic Approach
Generally, the best policy is to balance the proactive with the reactive, by providing for one’s child the best possible starting position. Whether that be presenting them well with good back to school outfit ideas, or giving them pep talks about what not to say to other children to avoid unnecessary drama whilst also being mentally prepared for when your child comes home in tears when it inevitably all goes wrong.
Above All Else, Listen and Watch
However, when it comes to safeguarding, it is what your child doesn’t tell you should concern you. Children are very clever and know how their parent’s minds work more than we tend to realize. They know that telling us everything about their day may only worry and upset us, and so they will often attempt to hide their problems from us. With luck, however, you’ll know your own child’s body language by this point, and be able to spot this. The trick, therefore, is making sure that they know that the door is open, that they can trust you with whatever it is they are carrying, and that, more than anything else, is where the good parents tend to stand out.