In some areas the new school term has already begun, in others, term starts this week. Have you got a little one starting school for the first time? How do you feel? Are they excited or anxious or a bit of both?
Seven in 10 parents worry their child won’t make friends when starting school, according to research.
A poll of 1,000 parents found the top concerns among those with children starting school, with 71 per cent citing ‘settling in’ as their biggest worry.
Three in 10 stress about their little ones being able to manage going to the toilet by themselves, and a fifth can’t guarantee their kids will behave all day.
The research was conducted by Disney Junior’s show Vampirina, who also produced a video guide to help kids make new playmates.
Psychologist Linda Blair said: “To make friends children must be able to consider life from other people’s points of view so they can appreciate and react to what others want to do and enjoy.
“Although young children show they’re capable of appreciating other viewpoints, they don’t normally apply this skill until they’re about five years old.
“This is why it’s important to start introducing them to this skill at a young age. Once they can understand empathy it will feel like second nature to them to behave in those adaptive ways.
“It’s natural for the whole family to feel nervous on your child’s first day at school—and remember, other parents will be feeling nervous as well.
“You can help create a welcoming atmosphere by offering a genuine compliment to another parent about their child’s behaviour and/or appearance.”
The research also found 70 per cent of parents cite confidence as a key quality in making friends, while 53 per cent think shared interests is the best way to make a new pal.
It is not just the children that parents and guardians worry about, with 55 per cent saying they themselves are anxious about making new adult friends. Is this something you feel? The school yard can be a daunting place sometimes.
Well over half of adults admit they lost friends as they got older, and 36 per cent confessed they wish it was as easy to make friends as an adult as it was during childhood.
David Levine, General Manager of Disney Channels UK & Ireland said: “Disney Junior’s Vampirina is a show about making new friends so we’re delighted to lend our characters to help both children and parents settle into school in what is an exciting, but often anxious time, for all involved.
“It’s fantastic that TV shows such as Vampirina can spark conversations around everyday problems that ordinarily may be difficult for parents and children, and in turn offer support by showing solutions.”
The top 10 concerns for parents when their child starts school
1. Settling in
2. Making Friends
3. Going to the toilet
5. Liking their teacher
6. Not eating their lunch
7. Losing their belongings
8. Not drinking enough water
9. Getting lost
10. Being bottom of the class
How to make friends – Linda Blair’s Top Tips for Kids
• How can I help? If you think another child isn’t sure about whether to join in with what you’re doing, invite them to do something with you. Everyone likes to feel included.
• Sharing is caring. When you’re with your new classmates, offer to share your toys and playground equipment, so you can all play together.
• Take turns. At break time, make sure everyone you’re with gets to have a turn at whatever you’re all doing. They’ll like you for being kind.
• Let’s pretend. Knowing how other people are feeling will help you understand what makes other people happy. If your school has a drama club, join it, and ask to be in the school play, too, so you can learn different ways of feeling and behaving. At home, ask your family to play ‘let’s pretend’ games with you.
• Caring isn’t just about people. A good way to practice helping others feel better after school is to help care for your pets. And guess what? Your pets will love you especially because of what you do!
How to help your children make friends – Linda Blair’s Top Tips for Parents and Guardians
1. Do as I do. During the early years, parents are the child’s best role models. Be sure you show how to make friends by setting a good example, e.g. giving the people around you your full attention – listen fully whenever your child, your partner or other key people around you want to tell you something. Show you’re concerned about how other people are feeling and thank others when they do things you appreciate.
2. Read / watch stories about sharing and making friends and talk about them afterwards. Start reading / watching these stories as early as possible – even before you think your child can understand them! Whenever you see an opportunity ask your child how a character could be feeling—and ask how they know. Disney Junior’s TV show Vampirinia has some fantastic episodes exploring friendship, what it takes to be a good friend, issues they may come across and how to tackle them.
3. Make a head start. Before your child starts a new school year, find out if you can who else will be in their class. Then invite one of those children over to play with your child during the summer holidays. That way, once school starts, your child already has a friend from the start of term. This in turn will reduce their anxiety when they go into class on that first day.
Good luck if you have little ones starting school!