Back to school – A fertile ground for parents to unintentionally put pressure on their children
Whether we dread it or wait for it impatiently (the holiday club was that terrible??), it is inevitable… I obviously mean back to school!
Whether you are parents of children or teenagers, back to school most often rhymes with back to school and the latter rhymes with purchases of school supplies, ministers’ schedules to be managed for all family members, registrations for a thousand and one activities for our child to learn to play the violin on a pony in a swimming pool where the instructions are written in Mandarin and many other things. At this rate, as soon as Saint Gabriel arrives, we are already dreaming of being on vacation again.
For most of us, this period is therefore a source of anxiety, an anxiety that we also communicate to our children in an unconscious and clumsy way through daily pressure; pressure that could be avoided.
Rule number 1 – No panic! We do what we can as best we can and the same goes for children.
We will take a classic example, that of the child who has trouble making friends at school. Obviously, as caring parents and adults that we are, we want to do everything we can to help our child always get better, but we don’t know what is going on in the child’s head. Does he really want to find friends in this school? Does he have difficulty with social interactions? Is he trying to draw attention to himself? Is he the victim of bullying? What is certain is that we are not helping him by telling him that this year he will have to find friends and that he can no longer be alone during recess. What should be done normally will happen naturally. If this is not the case, something is wrong and the child is not responsible for it. Teenagers in the same situation will generally even have a certain pleasure in contradicting their sweet, loving parents by withdrawing into themselves or by befriending categories of people deemed infrequent by their parents.
So, we remain vigilant at all times about the dating, or moments of loneliness, of our children but we are careful not to further hurt the child who is probably already in difficulty in this area.
Rule number 2 – The past is the past and I set the right momentum for a fresh start for this year.
It is possible that your child finished the year with an average of 5 in mathematics and 10 hours of glue because Mr. found it more interesting to talk about his fresstyle football figures than to follow the course on the Pythagorean theorem (prick of reminder? Personally, I am a taker). September marks the month of a new beginning, of renewal, of a new chance offered to each of us to do better than the past year. Obviously we ourselves as adults fear certain teachers and certain situations. We ask for an appointment at school at the beginning of the year by bringing a small holiday souvenir bought at the airport or station shop to offer it to the director, hoping that she will be nice this year and that she doesn’t call us 3 times a month.
So, even though our child unfortunately had the prize for disruptive student champion in all categories, we keep in mind that he also has many qualities, that if we took out the person he is, from the school environment, that is to say without the marks, without the comments of the teachers, without the pressure of success and perfect orientation towards a future without incident until retirement, we would be faced with a child who often wants to do well but don’t know how to do it. That he is defeated before he even really tries. We keep in mind that the child may have a cognitive difficulty and that, faced with this situation, he has chosen to make his classmates laugh and that it was enough for him to school we trigger the red alert concerning him, label of bad student with which he ends up identifying.
Rule number 3 – Every child is unique and each of us has strengths and weaknesses
It’s always tempting to want to compare your child to that of others…and in the school setting the rule does not change. Here we will take the example of a child who comes home with a good mark. Have you ever asked your child if another student had a better grade than him or what the class average was? And yes that’s what we all tend to do but it’s a mistake. We are missing an important opportunity here to congratulate and value our child, regardless of whether the class average was 16 or whether Marie-Ange-Françoise-Eugénie, third of the name, had as usual 19.75 out of 20 with the Compliments from the mistress. The child needs to feel and know that he is loved by his parents, not because he is successful but because he is their child. In the same way, he does not need to be compared with other children, especially if what is in the resort is not to his advantage, this applies to all areas.
So, we are careful to always send positive feedback to our children, regardless of the results and especially regardless of the results of others! When an athlete finishes the marathon by arriving at the 81st position, he still receives a medal. We then learn to congratulate our child at the cost of his efforts and we encourage him to continue on this path so that he finds an interest in wanting to work well and always obtain better results.
The main thing is to always be in communication with your child while keeping the role of parent. If the child does not verbalize his possible concerns, we go fishing for information in a skilful and subtle way while preserving the child’s confidence. We do not forget that a child is very malleable and that by definition he can also feed very quickly on our own fears. In this it is better to transmit only positive to our child.
Mr. Gabriel Rafi
- Graduated in neuropsychology and cognitive psychology from University Paris Descartes, France.