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How can I Make School a Positive Experience for my Child?

A positive experience makes learning easier and boosts your child’s resilience, social skills and confidence. By making the most of what’s on offer, and talking regularly, you can help to make school the best days of their life!

Happy children having breakfast with family before schoolYour child might spend 15 years at school (from nursery age 3 - 18), so they had better enjoy it! A positive experience of school makes learning easier. It also boosts your child’s resilience, their social skills and their confidence. So, how can we make school the best days of their lives? This guide has some practical advice that should help.

Should I share my experience of school with my child?

Talk to your child about your own schooldays and share your happy memories. Hunt out your old school photos, books, reports or uniform – and show them. Discuss your achievements, friendships and favourite subjects. Let them know what your schooldays were like.

But it’s not all about sharing your experience of school – you’ll also want to know your child’s experiences. Ask about the friends they have spent time with. Keep it casual, though – don’t be too intrusive! Focus on positive things and how a negative situation can be turned into a positive. Reassure them that they can deal with anything – they have your support, and other people, to help.

How can I help my child to make friends at school?

Having friends at school helps a child to feel secure and accepted. If your child has difficulty socialising, they might need some gentle guidance. If you want to help your child to make friends at school then talk to them about how:

  • to open conversations
  • to make friends with others
  • to behave well, as a friend

Clubs and after-school activities are good ways to meet children with the same interests.

Encourage your child to:

  • talk to you about their friends
  • invite a friend home occasionally, for tea or a play-date

Or set up an outing with other parents and children.

What are the advantages of extra-curricular activities?

Most schools offer a range of after-school clubs or other extra-curricular activities. These include sports; creative subjects like music and drama; or academic clubs like Spanish, Maths or Computers. Encourage your child to join in. There are many advantages to extra-curricular activities. They enable children to:

  • try new activities
  • do more of what they like
  • develop new passions
  • improve expertise
  • increase confidence
  • develop their emotional and physical wellbeing
  • learn discipline – it’s a regular commitment, in their own time
  • develop friendships through sharing interests and experiences
  • build better relationships with staff

Enjoying other aspects of school helps to make it a positive experience.

What opportunities do schools offer children?

Encourage your child to make the most of every opportunity school offers - learning, socialising or having fun:

  • School discos, proms and other events
  • School trips
  • Residentials or travel abroad – to see more of the world and experience other activities, people, cultures and beliefs. They will also learn to be more independent, since they will have to make sure they wash themselves and sort out their own clothes!

Every opportunity is a chance to develop new skills, and to grow, both emotionally and mentally.

There are opportunities for you, too! Get involved in the school when you can:

  • attend school plays, special assemblies, awards ceremonies, sports days or music events
  • volunteer in the classroom
  • chaperone pupils on trips
  • join the Parents’ Association or Friends’ group
  • become a school governor

Your child will know that they are supported and you will both have school experiences to share.

Does a home routine help children at school?

Children need routine in their lives to feel secure. Having a structure to their days and knowing what to expect at certain times will help them to feel comfortable and confident. Establish a regular routine at home for daily tasks like mealtimes. Prepare school things the night before, so there’s no rush in the morning. All of this will help your children at school.

How important are nutrition and sleep for school children?

School is not all about learning, revising and tests. To do well, children need good nutrition and adequate sleep. Ensure your child is eating a well-balanced diet. A good breakfast is perhaps the most important meal and will set them up for the day. Healthy, nutritious food is required for thinking and learning and will give them energy throughout the day. Water helps with emotional balance and thinking skills, too. Sleep is also vital for feeling good. If children do not get enough sleep, they will become irritable and unable to take in information for learning. Children under the age of 5 need up to 15 hours sleep, and older children need around 9-10 hours.

How can I help my child with school and homework?

Try to get your child to enjoy learning and take pride in their schoolwork. Look at Education Quizzes together. Help them to keep up with homework. Rather than saying, ‘Do your homework!’ ask them, ‘Will you be doing your homework before tea, or after tea?’ This gives them a choice – but no choice, really - they will do homework!

Ask your child about their day, what they have enjoyed and what they have not. Take an interest in their learning and progress. Pick a regular time for listening to their reading, and help them with handwriting. Ask to see their work – out of interest, not criticism – and discuss projects. Sit and help them if they are finding their homework difficult. Help them to choose their own goals to work towards, but make sure that they are achievable.

How can I help if my child has problems at school?

Father helping his daughter with her school homework

Let your child know that they can come and talk to you about any issues or problems they have at school. Unfortunately, not all children have a completely positive experience of school. Look out for any early signs or changes in behaviour, and take action where necessary. Intervene, if you feel they are struggling, or there are any serious problems. Build a positive relationship with the school and find out where your child might be having difficulties, academically or socially. Ask their teacher or head of year what you can do to help.

Often emotional upset is caused by friends falling out, or worse, by bullying. According to the NSPCC, over 16,000 UK pupils miss school because of bullying. Do not hesitate to go and talk to someone at their school if this is the case. Depending on the seriousness of the issue or the size of school, approach either their teacher, head of year or head teacher.

Enjoying school is a sound foundation for your child’s future so, how can you make school a positive experience for your child? Since positivity is a learned response, if you are happy and positive, your child will learn this, too. With your support, your child will succeed. Help them to be the best they can be – whether that is a kind, gentle, caring and helpful person – or an intellectual genius. Academic or sports achievements are just the icing on the cake of a happy life.

If you’d like more information then take a look at this PDF from Family Action. It has lots of hints and tips for making your child’s schooldays the happiest of their lives.

The EQ Knowledge Bank is a resource that tries to answer the questions frequently asked by parents. They could be on education, schools or parenting in general. We have loads of information which could be useful to any parent. Why not take a look?

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