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Work on their social skills

Work on their social skills
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First Published: Fri, Dec 26 2008. 10 20 PM IST

Updated: Fri, Dec 26 2008. 10 20 PM IST
My daughter is five and is going to appear for primary school interviews soon. She is bright and knows her pre-school stuff, but when she meets strangers, she does not talk much. When I ask her questions she could face in interviews, she gives me the correct answers and says “I don’t know” when she can’t answer the question. I do not believe in pressurizing her, but I would like to boost her self-confidence. How do I go about preparing her to talk confidently at the interview?
It’s great that you are aware that pressurizing is not the way to go about this, but you must be also aware that children pick up your tensions, and you’re already tense about this.
However, having said that, you do have some real anxieties about how she will perform, given that so much hinges on this interview. Why not shift the focus away from the interview completely, and subtly begin to work on her social skills? Recruit a few of your friends and neighbours to engage her in conversations, ask her questions, draw her out a little. These could be small casual exchanges and not “mock interviews”, though.
For the next few weeks, you could have more people over, go out with a friend along with your daughter for lunch, and set up other such situations that will gently push her into interacting with new people.
Do not “define” the problem in front of her. If you keep telling her that she “knows everything but must learn to talk to the interviewer”, etc., at this age and stage, it will only make her more self-conscious. She may then end up clinging even more nervously to you during the interview.
Avoid defining the problem in front of her to other adults as well. You may end up making a “self-fulfilling prophecy” kind of situation—where she acts out exactly what you expect/fear that she will do, during the interview.
I don’t know what kind of school you’re applying to, but the sad fact is that many schools are so overwhelmed by the numbers applying that they need a small reason to “disqualify” a child. Keep this in mind, and have a Plan B ready so that you as well as your child don’t enter the interview process with a huge burden on your heads that she simply has to get through.
In a way it’s good that this issue has come up in the context of the school interview—you will work on one aspect of your child’s socializing process that will serve her well, a life skill, really: relating to and engaging with people outside the family. Whether there is an interview looming or not, it’s something we have to gift our children—the ability to let go of our hand a little, and trust another adult.
Our four-year-old is eligible for admission to a proper school this year. So far, she has only been to a small neighbourhood school, which has a total of about 50 children and we pick her up and drop her every day. Now, the schools where we are trying for admission will be about half an hour away and she will have to use school transport. The idea of our child in such a large place is scary. Should we talk to her about going to “big” school, tell her what to do in case she gets lost, help her memorize our phone number? Please advise on how to prepare her for this new chapter in her life.
Yes, it’s understandable that you are anxious about this new set of circumstances—the new school, the distance and the idea of your little one in a sea of kids! However, I would advise you not to talk about the possibility of her getting lost, or get her to memorize your number. This might only serve to make her anxious. But do keep an information tag with her name, your names and relevant numbers in her bag at all times. Most schools have someone see to it that kids this young are taken from the class to the bus, etc. However, closer to the time that she joins a new school, do ascertain that some such system is firmly in place.
At that time, it may be useful to go meet some of the parents of children slightly older than yours so they could clue you in on some of these nitty-gritties of the overall system in that particular school.
About mingling with so many more kids, it would be best not to make it sound like something daunting to your child. Which again means that you need to keep your anxieties to yourself.
Perhaps you could take her to one of the schools one of these days—maybe tag along with a friend who needs to pick up his or her child. Let her get a sense of the larger schools in this way. Just so that your child gets a kind of “preview” of a big institution with large grounds and hundreds of children pouring out—instead of doing this on the day she joins school.
If she voices any fears, then you can help her with them by maybe talking about the enjoyable things there will be to do, about your own first day at a new school, etc.
I know this is easy for me to say, and difficult for you at the moment to accept—but most children do surprisingly well with these transitions. They literally “go with the flow”, and are not overburdened by “what if” kind of apprehensions that we adults have.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting
Send your queries to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Dec 26 2008. 10 20 PM IST