It is the last day of term and for most eleven year olds it is the last day of primary school.
Next September – big school! It is presented as a big-new-exciting-thing, as often new things are to children. But actually, for many the change is daunting and not terribly welcome.
Even though it may all work out fine, that is irrelevant to a child who has enjoyed things as they are and has no desire for them to change. They will be experiencing the loss of what they have grown to know and love, far more than any excitement about what is to come. It is important that we allow our children to express their grief at what they are losing and to voice their fears about the new things that lie ahead. Ultimately this will allow them to make the transition. But we find it unsettling to see a child distressed and put subtle pressure on children to hide their worries. It reassures parents to hear their child expressing anticipation and readiness for change, but not all children feel that way and this is normal.
We can help them make the big shifts…
Whether it is moving up to big school, starting their period, becoming a teenager, or any other big step in life, it is normal for a child to feel ambivalent. They want to be grown up, but they may not yet feel so. They want to keep up with their peers, but they may be developmentally a bit younger just now. They may want to feel ready to make a change, but actually they are not sure.
Children need to be reassured that feeling unsure of their readiness does not mean that they are not ready. It may just mean that they need support. Or it might be that they need to be disabused of an idea about how they think ‘ready’ should be.
We can help our children to make the important shifts in their lives by convincing them that there is no single ‘right way’ to grow up. In fact there is only one way for them to grow up – their way. There is only one way for them to be ready to start big school – by being themselves exactly as they are now. There is only one way for them to grow into their teens – by being who they are.
This is how we preserve their self-esteem through these tender years of so much change. If we can support our children to seek their own path of developing tastes, evolving bodies, changing moods, new school, and shifting friendships, then they will emerge strong and sure.
If we can remain confident in them, while they are not so sure themselves, then they will grow to trust themselves.
And be sure to mark the significant shifts with a special something.