Guiding the Growth of your Primary School Child
Insights into Navigating the Toddler Years
This time here at the Mental Fitness Corner, we’ll explore parenting primary school children, which is a dynamic phase that brings its own set of joys, challenges, and opportunities. During these formative years, children aged 6 to 12 are transitioning from early childhood to adolescence, experiencing significant cognitive, social, and emotional growth. As parents, understanding their evolving needs and using effective strategies can contribute to a strong foundation for their future development, as well as set the foundation for effective parenting in adolescence.
Primary school is a crucial time for intellectual development. It therefore makes sense to encourage a love for learning by providing a stimulating environment that supports their interests and curiosity. Engage in conversations about their school day, read together, and explore topics that intrigue them. When children feel excited about learning, they are more likely to excel academically and develop a lifelong passion for knowledge. Help them see learning as an enjoyable activity rather than an inescapable, compelled task.
To do so, as your child’s world expands, maintaining open and honest communication becomes increasingly important. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable discussing their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. A safe space is not one where difficult conversation are avoided. Rather it is a space where they feel safe enough to face their fears and determine healthy ways to address them. Active listening is key—show genuine interest in their experiences and validate their emotions whilst offering them ways to manage those emotions vs wallowing in them. By building this foundation of trust and guidance, you can navigate challenges together.
It is not enough to teach them to identify emotions, it is necessary to teach them how to manage those emotions. Help your child to develop emotional intelligence, which is vital during this phase. Help your child identify their emotions by teaching them to recognise different feelings and cope with challenges constructively. Encourage empathy by discussing others’ emotions and perspectives. When children understand their own feelings and those of others, they can navigate social interactions with greater ease.
Friendships play a significant role in primary school children’s lives. Encourage healthy social interactions by teaching them effective communication skills, conflict resolution, and empathy. Provide opportunities for playdates and group activities that promote teamwork and cooperation. Modelling positive relationships within your family also serves as a valuable example.
Primary school children are gaining a sense of autonomy. Encourage age-appropriate independence and responsibility, such as taking care of personal belongings, completing simple chores, and making decisions within boundaries. These experiences foster confidence, problem-solving skills, and a sense of ownership over their actions.
It’s important to set realistic expectations for both academic and non-academic pursuits. Recognize your child’s unique strengths and interests and avoid undue pressure to excel in every area. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, and emphasize the value of effort and perseverance. This approach cultivates a growth mindset and reduces stress.
In the digital age, managing screen time and technology use is a significant consideration. Establish clear guidelines for screen time, balancing it with physical activity, creative play, and face-to-face interactions. Engage in shared screen activities to ensure their digital experiences are educational and positive.
Extracurricular activities offer opportunities for children to discover and develop their talents and passions outside the classroom. Whether it’s sports, arts, music, or clubs, allow your child to explore various interests and make choices that align with their preferences. This fosters well-rounded development and builds self-confidence. However, also balance this with sufficient free time for your child to have time to reflect on self & others and understand their inner strength.
Let’s just look at a typical day of healthy parenting of your primary school child whom we will just name “Alex.”
In the morning, you wake up Alex around 7:00 a.m., offering him a balanced breakfast that provides the energy he needs for the school day.
After breakfast, Alex is reminded to double-check his school bag, making sure he has all his books, homework, and any required forms or notes. You then remind him of extracurricular activities he has after school and any chores he needs to complete as part of his morning routine, such as making his bed, putting his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, and feeding the pet dog. These chores help instil a sense of responsibility and contribute to the overall cleanliness of the family home, creating a sense of teamwork & belongingness.
You then leave with Alex for school around 8:00 a.m. During the car ride, you ask about his plans for the day and any concerns he might have and use this time to remind Alex about important values like kindness, respect, and responsibility, encouraging him to apply them at school.
When Alex returns from school in the afternoon, he will have a short break for snacks and relaxation. Then, starts on homework in a quiet and well-lit space. If he has questions or struggles with a concept, you are there to provide guidance but also encouragement to solve problems on his own as much as possible. After finishing his homework, Alex completes a few more chores, such as setting the table for dinner, helping to clear the dishes after the meal, and watering the plants. These chores not only teach him valuable life skills but also contribute to the functioning of the household.
In the evening, Alex often has extracurricular activities like soccer practice or piano lessons, exploring his interests.
After dinner, dedicated quality family time, such as playing board games, reading a book, or simply talking about the day, allows the family to connect and bond. It’s important for you to create an atmosphere where Alex feels comfortable discussing any concerns or questions he might have.
Winding down for bedtime would begin around 8:30 p.m. to ensure Alex gets enough sleep for the next school day. The bedtime routine includes brushing teeth, reading a bedtime story, and talking about and reflecting on the highlights of the day. This not only helps him process his experiences but also shows him that you are there to always support him. Lastly, it provides an opportunity to convey how proud you are of his efforts and accomplishments.
Take home message:
Parenting primary school children is a period of growth and transformation. By fostering a nurturing environment that prioritizes learning, open communication, independence, and emotional intelligence, you can help your child develop the skills and mindset necessary for future success. Embrace the uniqueness of your child’s journey, celebrate their milestones, and continue to adapt your parenting approach as they navigate the path from childhood to adolescence. Remember, to be able to do all this, you need to engage in self-care. Parenting is a journey, and seeking guidance when needed is a sign of strength and dedication to fostering a healthy parent-child relationship.
Stay tuned for our next article where we will explore parenting adolescence.
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Important: If you find yourself struggling to navigate your emotions or are experiencing significant distress, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and help you develop personalised strategies to manage your emotions effectively.
Dr Rosanna Francis is a clinical psychologist who believes in the inner strength of the individual, and the value of tapping into these strengths and learning new skills to help one live a more comfortable, fulfilling life. She has over 20 years experience working across a diverse range of psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, complex trauma, relationships, stress, self-confidence, and emotion regulation; and, a special interest (research & clinical) in working with people with high intellectual ability who struggle with anxiety.