Supporting your child to become emotionally ready for pre-primary school
Mixed emotions, difficult choices, coping at work, experiencing utmost joy and contentment. As adults we are well known with these emotions. But what about your child? Emotional development and growth are a crucial part of your child’s early years, and you can help develop these. While this sounds like a daunting task, it is actually quite easy to support your child to become emotionally ready for pre-primary school.
Emotional development starts at home, in your womb. It is important to note that attending pre-primary school isn’t enough to develop your child emotionally, because emotional development can be compared with a 2-piece puzzle. The one piece is called ‘parents’ and the other ‘teachers’.
If one of these puzzle pieces is missing, you might be exposing your child to:
- a lack of everyday coping skills
- difficulties in making friends
- a lack of self-belief
- a sense of “I don’t fit in”
- difficulties to cope in grade 1 and onwards.
Remember it is your child, not the school’s child. Your child is a learner in the pre-primary school, but his development remains your responsibility, albeit supported by the school.
Research indicates that the inability to be in touch with and to explain emotions, can be linked to inadequate attention to sensory development. Make use of every opportunity to develop your child’s senses, and vocabulary by having “conversations” with your child.
As a parent, you can develop an emotionally “in touch” child at home, every day, by simply doing the following: Focus on your child’s five senses.
How focusing on sensory development can support your child to become emotionally ready for pre-primary school.
When you go for a walk, or play a game ask
“What noises can you hear?” What do you see/smell that makes you happy/sad/excited? Pick your favourite shaped leaf, squeeze it between your fingers (touch), how does it smell? Which texture do you like most, slippery/rough leaf and bark of a tree. If you still have a baby – use your vocabulary and senses and talk to your child, for example: “This is a beautiful day – look at the clear, blue sky”. “Smell the fresh air/orange rose”. “Feel the grass under your feet. Does it tickle your toes?” Take a few stones home to paint and have fun!
Listen to music
Play a happy / sad /exciting / slow, fast song & ask your child how he/she feels when listening to that song. Ask questions to find out how your child feels, and how he can express himself. “How do you walk / jump when you feel sad / tired / when it’s very warm?”
Hand puppets are a must in your household
Teach your child how to deal with sadness, anger, frustration eg. the angry rabbit has a red ball of fire in his tummy and he wants to yell at his mom, or hit his brother, but he rather chooses to go and drink water / wash his face instead of hurting somebody else. Teach your child healthy ways of dealing with frustration, like hitting his pillow very hard or tearing paper from a magazine, crumpling and throwing it as hard as he can. In the end he realises that he feels better as he got rid of the big, red ball of anger in his body. (The same applies to feelings of sadness).
Water and sand play will make your day
There is an old (and wise) saying that goes: Do you want a half-developed child – then don’t play with your child. It is amazing how playing with the simplest items in and around your house can unlock your child’s potential. Here are a few examples of activities you can try:
- Play with water and sand
- Bake mud cakes
- Pour bubbles / leaves in the water
- Wash the sand toys
- Create situations in and around the house where your child can learn to wait his turn.
Touching and feeling different things
Tickle your child’s nose with a feather, touch/rub her hair or face & say “you are a very special girl”, “I love you so much”. Massage his shoulders and back. Let your child comb / brush your hair. Draw different shapes/numbers on his back and visa versa.
Be an example
As a parent, your own emotions, and outlook on life can influence your child. This starts when the child is still in the mother’s womb, a baby, or a toddler. Keep your own emotions in check, and act as an example in developing an emotionally healthy, happy child.
When tempers or frustrations run high, try the following. Instead of shouting, crying, throwing things around, use positive behaviour and vocabulary, like “I’m just going to drink a glass of water” (go to the bathroom for example and wash our hands/drink water), make yourself a cup of tea (depending on the situation) and then go back. By giving yourself this mental break, you would be able to think realistically and logically again and research indicates that the outcome will be:
- a happier child, who feels safe and secure
- a child who’s more ready to face everyday life situations for example dealing better with conflict between friends, having less emotional outbursts and tantrums
- becoming a teenager with a positive self-image.
The school as your partner
Your partner in the emotional development journey of your child is the school. Remember to check in frequently with your child’s teacher. Listen to what the teacher says and don’t be afraid to ask and understand why your child should be able to master the specific learning activities on his school report.
In summary the emotional development of your child, where he can believe in himself, be happy and productive, starts with an involved parent. If not, you choose to only have a partly developed child.