New faces can be great learning curve for kids

School's back and students have been given their classes and teachers. But what if they don't like the decision?

Many readers would be surprised by how many calls schools get around this time of year - primarily from parents who insist their child is changed into a different class.

Most times it's because their child isn't with their best friend, but sometimes it's due to not being with their 'preferred' teacher.

I understand why parents might try to change their child's class. Many children, particularly shy ones, tend to want to be with their friends at all times to feel like they can cope. Some fearful children tend to like very warm and extremely friendly teachers who reassure them frequently through extreme praise and attention. These children might not like teachers who are a little firmer or less flattering.

Sometimes, children, or their parents, might insist on having the types of teachers who don't give any constructive criticism or correction, but instead supply a steady flow of reassuring compliments and rewards.

Problems in moving them:

But just because a child prefers something doesn't necessarily mean that their desired option is the best thing for them. Always being in a class with their best friend or having the super sweet teacher may hold them back a little.

By never being without their bestie, they never learn to make new friends or acquire some independence which will increase their confidence. Indeed, when a parent insists that their child always be placed with their best friend, they actually signal to their child that they don't think they're strong enough to cope without their best friend.

Inadvertently, these parents might be reducing their child's confidence.

Similarly, a child needs to learn to cope with a range of personalities in authority figures, such as teachers.

While they might prefer to have the super sugary ones, those educators might be limiting children's skills to cope with different types of instructions and different responses to their work. Without sufficient practice, children might be more upset by criticism and unused to being corrected every now and then. Ironically, this will make them even more sensitive and anxious than those who have learnt to cope when they get things wrong.

Sunday Mail parenting columnist Dr Judith Locke. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Sunday Mail parenting columnist Dr Judith Locke. Picture: Jamie Hanson

They'll be OK:

As a former teacher I know that most teachers put high effort into undertaking 'getting to know you' activities on the first days of school. Most will ensure that children with social skills difficulties are helped to get to know each other.

Children who are new to school typically get a same-aged buddy to show them around, or an older mentor to give them someone to say 'hi' to and check in with.

Schools are not there to make children 100 per cent happy and comfortable all of the time - they're not Disneyland with uniforms.

If children are never taken out of their comfort zone they will never learn or grow.

A child needs to realise that slight discomfort doesn't necessarily signal danger - just something they haven't done before. They have to go through the experience to feel more capable the next time they feel similar hesitation.

This will open up the world much more to them than only doing the things they've done before. But, if not now, when are they going to learn how to manage the typical discomfort associated with the process of change?

Above all, show confidence in your child and confidence in the school's decision.

Be supportive when they discuss the challenge of new situations, but trust they will cope, and it's likely they will.

Originally published as New faces can be great learning curve for kids


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