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Making School a Positive Experience

Your child might spend 15 years at school (from nursery age 3 - 18), so they had better enjoy it! A positive experience of school makes learning easier. It also boosts your child’s resilience, their social skills and their confidence.

So, how can we make school the best days of their lives? This guide has some practical advice that should help.

Share Experiences

Talk to your child about your own schooldays and share your happy memories. Hunt out your old school photos, books, reports or uniform – and show them. Discuss your achievements, friendships and favourite subjects. Let them know what your schooldays were like.

Ask about the friends they have spent time with. Keep it casual, though – don’t be too intrusive!

Focus on positive things and how a negative situation can be turned into a positive. Reassure them that they can deal with anything – they have your support, and other people, to help.

Friendships

Having friends helps a child to feel secure and accepted.

If your child has difficulty socialising, they might need some gentle guidance. Talk to your child about how:

  • to open conversations
  • to make friends with others
  • to behave well, as a friend

Clubs and after-school activities are good ways to meet children with the same interests.

Encourage your child to:

  • talk to you about their friends
  • invite a friend home occasionally, for tea or a play-date

Or set up an outing with other parents and children.

Extra-curricular activities

Most schools offer a range of after-school clubs or other activities. These include sports; creative subjects like music and drama; or academic clubs like Spanish, Maths or Computers. Encourage your child to join in. Clubs enable them to:

  • try new activities
  • do more of what they like
  • develop new passions
  • improve expertise
  • increase confidence
  • develop their emotional and physical wellbeing
  • learn discipline – it’s a regular commitment, in their own time
  • develop friendships through sharing interests and experiences
  • build better relationships with staff

Enjoying other aspects of school helps to make it a positive experience.

Opportunities

Encourage your child to make the most of every opportunity school offers - learning, socialising or having fun:

  • School discos, proms and other events
  • School trips
  • Residentials or travel abroad – to see more of the world and experience other activities, people, cultures and beliefs. They will also learn to be more independent, since they will have to make sure they wash themselves and sort out their own clothes!

Every opportunity is a chance to develop new skills, and to grow, both emotionally and mentally.

There are opportunities for you, too! Get involved in the school when you can:

  • attend school plays, special assemblies, awards ceremonies, sports days or music events
  • volunteer in the classroom
  • chaperone pupils on trips
  • join the Parents’ Association or Friends’ group
  • become a school governor

Your child will know that they are supported and you will both have school experiences to share.

Routine

Children need routine in their lives to feel secure. Having a structure to their days and knowing what to expect at certain times will help them to feel comfortable and confident.

Establish a regular routine for daily tasks like mealtimes. Prepare school things the night before, so there’s no rush in the morning.

Nutrition and sleep

Ensure your child is eating a well-balanced diet. A good breakfast will set them up for the day. Healthy, nutritious food is required for thinking and learning and will give them energy throughout the day. Water helps with emotional balance and thinking skills, too.

Sleep is also vital for feeling good. If children do not get enough sleep, they will become irritable and unable to take in information for learning. Children under the age of 5 need up to 15 hours sleep, and older children need around 9-10 hours (Family Action).

School and homework

Try to get your child to enjoy learning and take pride in their schoolwork. Look at Education Quizzes together.

Help them to keep up with homework. Rather than saying, “Do your homework!” ask them, “Will you be doing your homework before tea, or after tea?” This gives them a choice – but no choice, really - they will do homework!

Ask your child about their day, what they have enjoyed and what they have not. Take an interest in their learning and progress. Pick a regular time for listening to their reading, and help them with handwriting.

Ask to see their work – out of interest, not criticism – and discuss projects. Sit and help them if they are finding their homework difficult.

More advice is available here on the BBC website.

Help them to choose their own goals to work towards, but make sure that they are achievable.

Problems

Let your child know that they can come and talk to you about any issues.

Unfortunately, not all children have a completely positive experience of school. Look out for any early signs or changes in behaviour, and take action where necessary.

Intervene, if you feel they are struggling, or there are any serious problems. Build a positive relationship with the school and find out where your child might be having difficulties, academically or socially. Ask their teacher or head of year what you can do to help.

Often emotional upset is caused by friends falling out, or worse, by bullying.

According to the NSPCC, over 16,000 UK pupils miss school because of bullying. Do not hesitate to go and talk to someone at their school if this is the case. Depending on the seriousness of the issue or the size of school, approach either their teacher, head of year or headteacher.

And finally…

Enjoying school is a sound foundation for your child’s future.

Since positivity is a learned response, if you are happy and positive, your child will learn this, too.

With your support, your child will succeed. Help them to be the best they can be – whether that is a kind, gentle, caring and helpful person – or an intellectual genius. Academic or sports achievements are just the icing on the cake of a happy life.

  1. How might sharing your memories and photos of school help your child?
    Most children will have some worries about the problems they face at school. Hearing how you adapted and what happened when you were at school may help to ease your child's.
    They may well find your stories of times before mobile phones amusing - and your fashion sense hysterical - but that's not really much use to them in a practical sense!
  2. There are many practical reasons why friendships are important to children. Which of the following is NOT one of them?
    While happy childhood memories are great to have, they are only a bonus when it comes to the practical benefits of friendships. As well as increasing confidence and helping to deal with difficulties and worries, friendships also help children to build their own community and to feel less isolated. In addition, they help to develop children's social skills
  3. Extra curricula activities are a good way to develop friendships, but how else might they help your child?
    Whether it's sport, music or something else, the benefits of after school clubs are manifold. Consider encouraging your child to take part - they may well thank you for it!
  4. It will help your child if you are up to date with what's happening at school. Which of the following is NOT a good way to do that?
    After a long day at school, children may be too tired to talk. Let them speak to you in their own good time
  5. A regular routine has many benefits for children. Which of the following will it NOT do?
    As they have little control over their lives, children thrive on structure and routine. Regular times for waking, eating, working, playing and sleeping will all help with their concentration and learning but - sadly, will not increase their intelligence!
  6. In order to make the most of their time at school, children must be well rested. According the NHS website, how much sleep does a 9-year-old need?
    As children age, they generally need less sleep. At 5, for example, they need 11 hours per night and at 16 they need 9
  7. Homework is one part of school life your child might not enjoy. Here are some ways you might try to change that. Which is NOT a good idea?
    If your child is failing to hand their homework in there may be other reasons besides laziness. Maybe they feel overwhelmed, or perhaps they lack the materials they need. Talk to them and find out what is on their mind and if you can help - and then, if necessary, talk to the school
  8. Bullying can ruin a child's school days. According to the NSPCC, in 2011, how many children missed school due to the effects of bullying?
    The effects of bullying can linger on throughout a child's life - even well into adulthood. If your child is being bullied speak to them and to the school. Bullying is totally unacceptable
  9. Attitude has an effect on our children. How can we help them to start each day in a positive way?
    If we start the day expecting it to go badly, then the chances are it will! A positive attitude doesn't guarantee a good day, but it certainly helps. Not always easy, but try to make sure your home has a happy atmosphere to promote a good and positive outlook
  10. A recent study of happiness in schoolchildren looked at 15 different countries. English children came in which position in the happiness table?
    The 2015 report by the Children's society found that only 43% of Year 8 students in England enjoy school. Children in countries such as Nepal, Ethiopia, Colombia and Turkey are happier than those here

Author: Linda Innes

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