Grade R/Grade 1 is an exciting time for many children and their parents. With that excitement, however, comes some challenges. One area of concern for many parents is fostering friendships for their Grade R child. Every parent wants to be sure their child has a friend.
Here are some suggestions on how you can help your child in adjusting to a new environment and in making new friends:
Model and Teach how to be a friend
Use any opportunity to model and teach what ‘Being a Good Friend’ looks like. Focus on sharing and caring – but be sure to have your little one expect the same respect. In Grade R some children are so busy sharing that they never get a turn themselves. Remind them that they must stand up for themselves too.
Pretend to be a child playing a game. Have your child come to you and ask, “Excuse me, can I play with you?” Then, take it one step further: Have your child ask, “What can I do in this game?” Sometimes children give an automatic “yes” to others who ask to play without providing guidance about how to play. This second question is key and will ensure that your child isn’t left behind.
Refer to Classmates as ‘Friends’
Small children take words very seriously. Instead of saying, “Which child do you sit next to?” ask, “Which friend do you sit next to?” This may seem awkward at first, but in time your child will pick up on the underlying message that all her classmates are potential friends.
Find After-School Activities
For some children, a small, structured setting is the perfect environment for friendships to bloom. If you have a budding artist on your hands, sign her up for a pottery or painting class. If you have a sporty kid, find a league or class to join. Ask other parents of Grade R children if their children would like to participate as well.
Set up Playdates
With 20 or more children around at all times, school can be overwhelming. Some children tend to withdraw from groups but play wonderfully one-on-one. Ask your child which classmates might be potential friends, and arrange playdates with them. Once children gain experience with each other in an intimate setting, their friendship will transfer more easily to a school setting.
Learn Classmates’ Names
Ask the school or teacher for a class roster, if you don’t already have one, and quiz your child on her classmates’ names. For School Starters, knowing other kids’ names can make it much easier to initiate conversation. If your child tells you about a friend at school, make sure she doesn’t forget the new friend’s name.
Be Social Outside of School
Establish that being social isn’t just done at school, where kids may feel a certain level of pressure. The more your family socialises, little ones included, the more comfortable your child will be around people in general. Invite neighbours over. Go to the park. Make casual chat in public. Kids imitate those around them, and that includes you!
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher
Find a time to meet with your child’s teacher one-on-one to discuss your concerns. At the beginning of the school year, teachers are just beginning to get to know their students. Gently mentioning your concerns may help the teacher make an extra effort to encourage friendships by pairing buddies up to work together or facilitating a cooperative game at break-time.
Be Supportive … and Patient
Make sure your child knows you’re always there to help, but don’t force her to talk, and don’t make a big deal out of it. Casually check in to assess how her relationships are developing. Building friendships may take a while, but hopefully they will last a lifetime!
Share your Experiences
Tell your child how you felt when you had to go to Grade R —and what made you feel better and how it turned out okay (that is if you can remember!). If your child has older siblings, ask them to tell her/him about their experience.
Remember to be empathetic and not sympathetic, try to understand how your child feels and validate their fears and concerns.
Tell us about your experiences below!