By: Robert Sege, MD, PhD, FAAP
The first day of kindergarten begins a new stage in life. School-age children are curious and eager to learn, gain new skills, and make new friends.
Families can create positive experiences that support a child's curiosity as they learn and grow. They also set children on course to be able to meet life's challenges and problems.
Everyday ways to be positive
School can take up much of a child's time, thought, and attention. It's a place where your child will learn how to make sense of the world. In class, they learn the traditional reading, math, history and social studies. But in school, they also learn to dance, sing, play sports, create art, and make friends. Be part of their busy day. Here are a few ways:
Ask about the school day & homework. Talk about what your child did and learned in school each day. Set aside time and a quiet place for them to do any homework they may have. Some children want to do their work all on their own. Others may need some guidance. Remember, it's OK if you don't know the all the answers! No one does – except the teacher.
Talk about their friendships. Children this age are growing emotionally as well. Listen when they tell you about how they are getting along with their classmates. Help them learn to solve their own problems when they come up.
Have fun and play with your children. It's good for both of you! Plus it helps with all aspects of their lives, including their schoolwork. As a child in the adult world, they often have very little control. So when possible, let your child choose what you do together. At this age, their abilities (like riding a bike or hiking in nature) give you all kinds of new ways to enjoy each other's company. Following their lead and having fun doing it shows that you love and trust them.
Have them help out at home. At first, many parents find that the child's “help" may take longer than doing it themselves! Even so, chores help children develop the sense that they matter to others. These experiences teach them lessons that will last when they become older and more responsible.
Help them set goals. Children at this age build confidence when they finish a project, learn a new skill, do well in school, or help grandma every weekend. The sense of mastery that comes from reaching a goal that they set will serve them well for a lifetime.
Your pediatrician is here to help
Many children struggle with schoolwork. Some have trouble with friendships. If you sense that things aren't going well for your child, speak with your pediatrician. Your child's doctor can help figure out if they have any special learning needs or other needs.
About Dr. Sege
Robert Sege, MD, PhD, FAAP, is a recent member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. He is also a child abuse pediatrician at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.