Your January child is effectively one year older than most of his classmates. He’s probably more advanced than them because of this, and may even be bigger in size, too.
This potentially has both advantages and disadvantages. Bear in mind, though, that much depends on the individual child, his abilities and personality.
His progress through school will depend on much more than his age at the start of Term 1. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of being among the older kids in his class:
On the plus side, the oldest child might (though not in every instance):
– Attain higher achievements in learning compared to the younger pupils in the class. This slight effect in attainments can continue throughout primary school.
– Be more mature emotionally and socially than his younger classmates and, therefore, be better able to cope with the ups and downs of everyday life in school and in the playground.
– Have better physical skills and be stronger than his classmates, which give him an edge when it comes to sports and playground games.
– Be more confident because he compares well against his peers – and this boosts his self-esteem, motivation and self-image.
On the minus side, he might:
– Feel he has to live up to expectations from parents and teachers that are too demanding – and, consequently, feel undervalued.
– Be given more responsibilities than the younger pupils in the class, and be asked to take on more tasks than he would like.
– Feel ridiculed by his smaller classmates if it turns out that he isn’t the best at football, or can’t run faster than everyone else in the class.
– Become fed up with everyone telling him that since he is the oldest in the class, he should be the one who sets an example for others to follow.
Guide him through primary school with these pointers in mind:
Treat him as an individual
Forget the fact that he is the oldest in the class and concentrate on making sure he has an enjoyable school experience. What matters is that he is encouraged to try hard, and that he feels his achievements – whatever these may be – are valued by you and his teachers. Accept him for who he is, not based on his age.
Recognise that age advantage is only slight
The research that shows older children tend to have an academic advantage compared to their younger peers usually also shows that this advantage isn’t automatic. And when it does occur, the difference in gains is slight. Therefore, it does not give him such a great head start over his classmates.
Don’t weigh him down
Avoid burdening him with too many responsibilities – for example, by always insisting that he is in charge when with his classmates. It’s not always his fault that they misbehave when they play together. Nor does he have to be the one who organises their games. Some responsibility is fine; too much will dampen his enthusiasm completely.
Treat him fairly
Telling him he ought to know better than that, as he is older than his classmates, is unlikely to gain his cooperation. But saying “I’m surprised you misbehaved in class because you are usually so thoughtful” is more likely to motivate him to behave appropriately. Choose your words carefully.
Let him play with older kids
Not having the leadership role may be quite challenging for him at first, but he will soon adapt. Mixing with older children develops his social skills and gives him a chance to experience what it’s like not to be the oldest in the group.
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