Although children usually settle in primary school within a few months, there are some who take much longer. Whatever the reason, your primary school kid needs help and guidance. Here are some of the signs that he isn’t fitting in quite as well as you had hoped:
Limited social activity
By now your child should have a group of classmates with whom he regularly plays, either in the school or at home. Children vary in their degree of social confidence and friendliness, but it is reasonable to expect him to meet frequently with his friends, and to talk to you about his experiences with them. A schedule of restricted social activities might suggest he struggles with classmate relationships.
Lack of progress
Every child develops at his own rate and makes his own progress through the curriculum. By now, however, he should be making measurable gains in literacy and numeracy.
Be concerned if you find that his peers seem to progress at a faster rate than him, or if he complains that the work in school is far too hard for him. (Bear in mind that a child may be reluctant to admit educational difficulties, so check his books frequently.)
Unless his school has an explicit no-homework policy, expect him to have homework several times during the school week. Have a look at his school bag when he gets home from school.
Lack of homework (or lots of homework to make up for what he failed to complete in class during the day) could be a sign that he has difficulty keeping up with the curriculum – he conceals the homework in order to conceal his difficulties.
Loss of books, possessions and money
A child who is socially isolated and bullied at school may also report that he loses his books, possessions and money (either through his own lack of interest or because the bullies take things from him).
If he is bullied, he is unlikely to make an immediate admission to you, so make sure you don’t get fobbed off with the same old excuse every time. Watch for a pattern developing.
If your child does not quite fit into school, you may find that he complains of sore tummies in the morning or tells you that he feels unwell. He’s not kidding you – he genuinely feels unwell.
The source of these pains is psychological, however, not physical, particularly if his pains are more common on Mondays and on the first day back to school after a holiday. This is his way of avoiding the challenge of school.
Any change in your child’s behaviour could be a sign that school isn’t going well for him. Pay particular attention to loss of appetite, disrupted sleep patterns, lack of interest in leisure activities, as well as changes in temperament (for instance, from outgoing to withdrawn, from quiet to aggressive.)
While there can be many explanations for this behaviour, trouble adjusting to school life could be the cause.
When you suspect that your child has difficulties fitting into school, talk to him about it. Explore all the areas of concern that he might have and listen while he gives you his point of view.
Confirm that you are there for him, to support him. You’ll probably want to speak to his teacher as well. Once you know the problem, you’ll be able to help him cope more effectively with school life.