The First Day at Swiss Primary

Will my son find friends? Will my daughter be able to cope with the pressure?
Many parents dread their child’s first day of school. Andrea Kramer, a psychotherapist for children and adolescents, as well as a lecturer at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) is familiar with these fears.

She says, “The start of school is so emotional because the time of detachment from the outside world is determined. On a fixed date. And regardless of whether the children or the parents are ready for it.” Here are four of the most common fears and tips to deal with them:

My child won’t make friends

The image of a lonely child on the schoolyard is deeply unsettling. This is a primal fear we all share. As social beings, we need social relationships. Children know this too. School is testing your child’s ability to make these connections outside their sheltered environment.

But it’s important to understand that very few children remain alone forever. Parents can have confidence in that their son or daughter will be able to make friends – even if they are shy. Sometimes, it just takes more time. As a father or mother, there’s no need to panic, but rather wait and observe. If it doesn’t work even after several weeks, you can have a conversation with the teacher. Or, if the child agrees, invite friends over to play.

My child is hyperactive and unruly and will have a hard time in school.

While your child might initially struggle at school, most children eventually get used to the routine in a school.. Often, children behave differently outside the family your child might show a very different side in the classroom. Many parents also wonder if the teacher will be able to support and handle their hyperactive child. Do they know how to ground, calm, and educate my hyperactive child?
Here, too, dialogue with the teacher is important. Express your concerns. Fears diminish when discussed. For instance, say: ‘I’m concerned that my child will struggle in school because they have trouble paying attention and sitting still. How can we address this?’

My child will crumble under academic pressure

First and foremost, children are always learning. Simply at their own pace. Almost every child learns to walk, learns to express themselves. They eagerly tackle new things when there’s room for it and it happens without pressure. However, the speed at which a child learns is completely individual.

School places certain demands on children. Sometimes it might be too much.
What’s crucial is that parents don’t amplify academic pressure at home. Like demanding specific grades. Or only giving them recognition when they perform well. Children shouldn’t have to fulfill their parents’ expectations but their own. If you feel that your child is struggling, approach the teacher with your concerns.

My child won’t like school – just like I did

Your child will undoubtedly have different experiences at school than you as parents did. Both good and bad. What holds true for many social fears is true here as well: School anxiety can be passed on. Even if it’s not voiced. Children are perceptive and can sense if parents have negative feelings about a topic.
Instead, parents need to ask themselves: What are my fears? And how can I deal with them without burdening the child?”

Parents as safe haven

Kramer reassures: “In the first years of a child’s life, mothers and fathers are the safe haven. They protect and shield against great storms. They teach what the world outside looks like and show their child what it needs to navigate through it.
When starting school, parents are telling their child, ‘I believe you can sail out of the haven on your own and withstand the currents and winds’.
However, parents remain the safe haven. “They can trust that the ship is seaworthy enough to succeed on the open sea.” And if not, they can always return to the safe haven!

(Source: Schoop, F. NZZ. Accessed: 21.8.2023)

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