“Mama, I want to stay at home with you,” was one of my eight-year-old daughter’s favourite phrases when she started primary school.
When that did not work, she played the sympathy card. Vague tummy pain and migraines ensued. Often, there were tears as she struggled to adjust to her new learning environment.
We appealed to reason. That didn’t work.
We tried bribery. It worked for one day.
We yelled. That worsened matters and she threw awful tantrums. I wondered if there was something wrong with my parenting.
But experts say that her behaviour is hardly unusual for a child entering formal education, when they are encouraged to be more independent.
“It is a significant milestone in a child’s – and consequently, the parents’ – life. Along with reaching this milestone are several changes,” says clinical psychologist Matilda Chew from Think Psychological Services.
For instance, school hours are longer and learning methods are no longer playbased, Matilda explains.
As a result, they may have problems adapting to a new environment, which include having to cope with different academic demands and establishing new relationships, says Dr Ong Say How, head and senior consultant at the Child and Adolescent Mental Wellness Service, in the department of psychological medicine at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
So, just how can parents help their child adjust to big-kid school?
We asked the experts to troubleshoot common problems for a tears-free transition.