School's in for parents
So, you’ve got the practical stuff sorted – but how do you deal with the heartbreak of tears before school?
Your little one’s up, dressed, fed and ready to go, but then, uh oh, the bottom lip starts to wobble and their big woeful eyes start to well up. How you should handle this will vary hugely depending on the cause of the upset and how long it’s been going on for.
Here, we look at the four biggest sources of school-based sadness for little ones and talk to the experts about how best to deal with each situation.
‘The teacher doesn’t like me’
‘No teacher should ever convey feelings of dislike to a child,’ says Clive Pierrepont, director of communications for the Taaleem group of schools and former school principal. ‘Children must also understand that what teachers say and what teachers mean are often two different things: if a teacher says “shut up”, a sensitive child might take that as the teacher disliking them, when in fact the opposite could be true – sometimes it can actually be a positive sign that the teacher is taking an active interest in them.’
That’s all very well in the rational, adult world, but how can we assure children that this is the case without undermining their feelings? ‘The problem should be addressed with the teacher. For younger children this would probably be done by the parents, but as kids get older and develop their social skills, they might prefer to do it themselves. It’s vital that you – or they – create that dialogue, otherwise children will retreat and think: If you don’t like me, I’ll give you a reason not to like me – and that’s a dangerous downwards spiral.’
Living in Dubai can add to these difficulties: ‘Teachers are taught how damaging a seemingly casual remark can be – but sometimes misunderstandings are inevitable,’ Clive says. ‘In this culture some children are brought up by hired help and there are no behavioural boundaries, so when they’re in school and the teacher doesn’t let them do whatever they want, the child can find it shocking and think that the teacher doesn’t like them.’
With all the comings and goings this summer (more goings than comings, we think), chances are your child will be missing a friend or two when they return to school. While it’s tempting to adopt the ‘stiff upper lip’ school of parenting, remember that your child is experiencing feelings of grief.
Parenting educator Helen Williams advises, ‘It’s really important that parents talk to their children about loss, what it feels like, why it’s painful and why it makes you sad.’ Mums and dads should be around to lend a shoulder for those tearful sessions and to suggest ways of keeping in touch. If you also have a friend who’s moved away, lead by example, not hiding your feelings but showing your child how to deal with them: ‘Look, I can’t see Lucy but I’m going to write her an email.’
Helen says parents should try not to get so caught up in the new-term happenings that they forget their kids may have lost a lot of core familiarity. ‘Keep talking about it and offer cuddles and comfort. Let them cry and explain that they will meet new, exciting friends. Encourage your child to be chatty, friendly and open,’ she says.
There is, however, a difference between grief and feeling sorry for yourself. ‘Make sure your kids aren’t pretending to be miserable in order to get attention by giving them plenty as a matter of course.’
To make an appointment with Helen call 055 893 6524 or 04 394 1000.
Time Out Dubai,