Family relationships are still the biggest influence on your school-age child’s development. Fitting in with friends and finding role models are also important, and you can help your child with these parts of her social and emotional development.
Understanding school-age children: the basics
At school, your child is busy learning and making friends. This includes trying to understand the rules of life, learning about manners, values and what’s right and wrong, and finding role models like teachers and other trusted grown-ups.
At the same time, your child’s brain is developing rapidly, bringing increased emotional maturity, social skills and thinking abilities.
Even with all these new influences, your home life and family relationships are still the biggest influence on your child’s development. Your relationship might change a little bit because you’re spending less time together – your child might even prefer a wave to a public kiss goodbye – but your job as a parent is just as important as ever.
Your little one is heading off to a world of grazed knees, tearful misunderstandings and fascinated learning. And when your child’s knee hurts, he doesn’t get invited to a birthday party, or he needs help with homework, you’ll be the first person he wants.
Developing your child’s social skills
When children start school, they’re entering the wider social world. Your child will be thinking about finding her own place, fitting in with friends and feeling part of a larger social group.
Although you’re not there when your child is at school, there’s still a lot you can do to help him develop his social skills:
At 7-8 years, children become more aware of having a private self. They recognise the emotions and thoughts that are uniquely theirs. They also start comparing themselves with their peers. After the age of eight, friends their own age become more influential.
Finding role models
At 5-8 years, school-age children gain a sense of self by finding people they want to be like – or role models.
Children look to older relatives, family friends, teachers and peers – usually of the same gender – to see what it’s like to be a man or a woman in society. These role models can help children work out what sort of people they want to be.
Your child’s teacher
At school, the most important role model in your child’s life is her teacher. When you consider that your child learns from watching, listening and interacting with others, you can see why teachers have a huge influence on your child’s thinking, attitudes, behaviour and views about school.
During the first few years of primary school, children can get quite preoccupied with learning rules.
Games and sports with rules become important. Through them, children learn that rules apply differently in different situations. They also start understanding what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. For example, some rules or behaviour that are all right at home might not be OK when visiting friends.
At this age, children come to understand and accept that there are rules in the family and in society. They might feel guilty when they do the wrong thing.
Helping your school-age child understand rules and values
Explain why things are considered right and wrong, and why some behaviour isn’t tolerated at all in society – for example, teasing and stealing.
Discuss the idea of values with your child. Share your own personal and family values with him. You can also talk about broader community values.
Playing with pasta pieces, especially macaroni, can be an excellent way to boost your child's acquisition of fine motor skills!