The summer holidays are almost over, so the youngest among us will soon be going back to school. Some children trade primary school for secondary school. NU.nl asked two experts what you can do as a parent to prepare your child for this.
How your child experiences this transition largely depends on how you deal with it as a parent, says family coach Marina van der Wal. “As a parent you can be positively involved in your children’s lives, but you shouldn’t be too involved.”
If you do, you run the risk of hindering your child’s development. Van der Wal therefore advises parents to do some self-reflection. “First find out what kind of parent you are. And then how your child feels and handles this step.”
Every child handles this transition differently. Where one child is especially looking forward to something new, the other has a little more difficulty with it. In both cases, it is important to create a situation where your child feels safe and comfortable enough to share nerves and fears.
Ask open questions and name things specifically
Tessa Blom, child and youth psychologist, saw in her own children how big the transition can be. One of her children thrived at the idea of a new school, while the other grew increasingly quiet and insecure. That is why she wrote the book School may also be fun! about.
It is important to be there for your child, says Blom. “There are certain conversation techniques that can help. Ask open questions and name things specifically. That can invite you to talk about it further.”
Just like saying that it is very normal that it is exciting, and that it will probably take some getting used to. By putting words to it yourself, you also give your child the tools to indicate how they feel, Blom knows.
Open questions help, but why questions should be avoided, says Van der Wal. “It feels like you are being held accountable. Especially with teenagers, these questions are really not done. Also comments about ‘keep up the courage’ only have the opposite effect.”
Don’t be guided by your own emotions
Don’t underestimate the switch, warns Blom. Even if your child doesn’t seem to mind. “It’s their new world, so they’re probably working on it all day.”
Van der Wal warns of one of the biggest pitfalls you can face as a parent: “Don’t be guided by your own emotions. If you do, you can reinforce those feelings in your child. If you secretly find it quite difficult finds and shows that, you can make your child insecure.”
In addition to being there for questions and doubts, it can also help support your child in developing routines. How do you do the best homework and when do you pack your bag? Ultimately, it’s all about giving your child the space to develop and become independent. “Especially by letting them make mistakes,” says Van der Wal.
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