Make their first day a class act

2010-01-10 13:15

YOUR baby is about to start “big” school

while your adolescent is going off to high school.

Well, school does not really have to be a tortuous experience –

­after all, you’ve been through it and you turned out okay.

Going to a new school with new classmates and teachers is enough to

put a strain on any child.

It is up to parents to make the transition as smooth and painless

as ­possible. All it takes is a little preparation for you and your



to Grade 1:

According to Nomonde Fikizolo, a Grade 1 teacher at Impendulo

Primary School in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, parents need to teach their children

some vital information ­before they start school.

Fikizolo says the child should know his or her full name, surname

and ­address; home telephone number and parents’ full names and surnames.

“It always presents a problem if a child doesn’t even know its own

full names because at home they are called by their nicknames.”

Fikizolo says it’s a bonus if the child knows his or her date of

birth, body parts, shapes, the days of the week, how to count, the names of

­colours and letters of the alphabet.

“It is also good to teach them a few rhymes. All these things will

help them when they get to school. It is also important to encourage them to

talk about what they have learned when they come back from school, instead of

­letting them just play outside,” says Fikizolo.

Johannesburg-based educational psychologist Ken Resnick says: “You

can’t encourage children to love school, but you need to allow your child to

make choices and not be scared to take on challenges.

“Children who are confident and well adapted will love the

challenge of school.”


off to high school

According to Resnick, high school is a whole new beginning for most

Grade 8 pupils. “From being big fish in a small pond they now ­become small fish

in a big pond. At this time of their lives it is important that the parents

understand and keep the communication channels open with their child.”

He says by this time the child is entering adolescence and, once

again, a confident learner with good self-esteem will cope much better than a

shy, withdrawn child.

“The parents must encourage their child to fight its own battles

and must not interfere.”

When it comes to high school bullies, however, Resnick believes

that parents need to look at their parenting style because victims are as big an

issue as bullies.

“Bullies target victims and the child who lacks confidence, is shy

and withdrawn and not well socialised often becomes a victim. ­However, all

bullying needs to ­be ­reported with the child’s permission. Don’t do anything

unless your child wants you to take action.”



So your child has failed what most of her peers consider the most

important grade in school: Grade 12. How can parents encourage their children to

repeat matric while most of their former classmates are going off to tertiary


“Failing, especially matric, is a very difficult thing to cope

with. However, children do not all of a ­sudden fail. There will have been

warning signs long before the learner reached matric,” says Resnick.

“Once again, children who fail have low self-esteem and often

believe that they are stupid, when in fact all that they might be lacking is

motivation and possibly a few literacy and study skills. The learner who fails

should be encouraged to seek counselling.”

Resnick says it is up to the teenager to decide to go for help.

“Teenagers are difficult to work with as they often have no trust

in adults and authority. Very few teenagers willingly go for counselling and

parents need to also be ­involved in any therapy that does take place, in order

to build up that trust and not make the teenager feel that it is all his


Resnick says there is plenty of learning assistance, but the

learner must want that assistance.

“Problems need to be detected and acted upon long before the

learner reaches matric.”


the lunchbox

So now you have managed to get them to go to school and even

slipped them some lunch money to make things a little more palatable (admit it,

money went a long way to help you stop crying too).

Keep in mind that whatever you pack for their lunch holds their

­interest, otherwise they will be distracted by playing and talking with their

new friends.

Lunchboxes might also have to ­replace three to four meals a day –

the breakfast that wasn’t eaten, the mid-morning snack, lunch and the

mid-afternoon snack. So ultimately you have to pack a whole menu in one


According to the Health 24 website’s nutrition experts, “an

interesting lunchbox goes a long way to brightening up the first day. Being in

such a regimented environment is a shock to anyone after such a long holiday.”

They suggest that parents include items from all the food groups on

the food pyramid, like some nice sandwiches with lean slices of meat, ­lettuce

and tomato, fresh fruit, milkshake or fruit juice and the child’s favourite


At least when they arrive back from their first day of school to

­dramatically list their woes, their lunchbox will be the last thing they

complain about.

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