In the last article, we talked about the ever evolving parent-child bond and how one can nurture the bond at pre-schooler stage. As the child starts going to school, they become more curious about the world and want to experiment new things. They understand that their world is made up of more elements and people than their immediate family. Questions increase, interactions increase, and they are trying hard to be more independent. Friends and teachers gain center stage. The mess in the house is proportional to the experiments they do. You will find Lego bricks or slime or play-doh all around the house. They need your love , attention and guidance at every step they take. Some things that you can do as a parent during this stage of life-
'My teacher is smarter than you' - many grade schooler parents would have heard this often . While a lot of learning happens in school, a parent can play a big role in helping their children to be confident and enthusiastic learners. Praise your child for trying hard (not just for doing well) and celebrate little successes, help them be organized, navigate challenges , solve problems and build belief that trying hard and doing their best is important. Talk to your child often about the hopes, dreams and plans they have for the future. Discuss and explore big ideas to encourage critical thinking , put thoughts into language and foster curiosity.
Learn about the world together
Include the children in everyday activities like packing their school lunches, cooking, gardening, playing sport or taking care of siblings. Travel often and explore new areas of passion or interest and to participate in family, community and cultural activities. Explain how you plan, solve problems and think about the future. Reinforce your child’s learning by going to libraries, museums, free concerts, sporting and cultural events together. Read aloud the newspapers or watch news together. News like India's moon mission or winning golds in sporting events will encourage them to aspire for more in their lives.
Have an open communication with your child. Ask open questions that encourage discussion , such as "what made you laugh today" ; "how do you think you went with maths today"; "what was the most interesting thing you played". Reminisce and talk about the times your family has spent together or talk about big ideas – such as the things you and your family believe in, your culture, science and nature or important issues that are happening in the community or the country.
Make reading a family affair. Read and talk about books and stories with your child. Let them explore various genres such as comics, non-fiction ,mythological, historical - different genres will broaden their life experiences and make them more curious. Do not limit to just English books, introduce them to books in regional language. Comics such as Amar Chitra Katha, helps to understand our cultural heritage and take pride in it. Ask your kids about their favorite characters and discuss about them. Asking your kid to stop watching videos or playing games on hand held devices is like fighting a losing battle. You cannot stop them completely, but you can encourage them to watch educational videos or read books on Kindle instead. Online Resources like Pratham Books Storyweaver has many age appropriate free e-books in English and regional Indian languages that you can introduce your child to.
Be a coach
In this stage of life, children become gradually ready for more independence. While it is an enjoyable experience letting them learn essential tasks like buttoning up a shirt or tieing their shoelaces or learning their times tables or reaching for a cookie jar high up in the kitchen shelves, it is also important for a parent to impart a moral code that the child gradually internalises. Provide praise an encouragement , but also allow them to make mistakes and learn from the natural consequences. Teach them to accept one’s weaknesses as well as building on strengths. Be a coach for your child no matter what the endeavor. Lead by example- if you have an organized, self-disciplined life and treat others respectfully, they will imbibe it silently.
Create a good environment
Create a special place for doing things like homework, drawing, reading or playing. Be available for questions when the child is doing homework. Encourage them to pick their toys or cleanup when they are done playing. Help children develop friendships and get along with other people including their teachers. When children get along better with other students and teachers, they tend to do better. Set an example by talking positively about school and talking respectfully to others. Talk about your child’s friends and relationships, about how they respond to any problems they are having and talk about their ideas for resolving conflict positively. The way parents resolve conflict or share happiness will trickle down to your child. Keep working on maintaining a strong parent-parent bond. When you make a promise, follow through . In case you are unable to meet a promise, explain the reasons honestly and clearly. This helps raise a trustworthy child.
It is easy for children to be influenced by movies, advertisements and friends and think that happiness depends upon getting the latest gadget or the coolest jeans. Demonstrate to them that the best things in life are free. Set weekend family rituals such a hiking in the woods, involving the children in cooking , watching movies at home, playing with balloons, watering the plants, washing the car or a sleepover at grandparents. These activities will help them learn to find happiness in simplicity and build their confidence.
At any stage in life, shower them with love, affection, undivided attention and care. Hugs and kiss them often, play silly games or let them explain to you about a new Transformer or My Little Pony character. Continue to take care of yourself as well. In the next article, we will talk about the next stage - Teenagers and how to continue nurturing the precious parent-child bond.