This is the first day of school in our part of the world. I suspect that not only are students anxious about what will happen during today, but also their parents.
Perhaps it would be good to review how the different developmental ages of children, ages 5-8 (grades K-3) will report on their “First Day of School.”
Here’s the favorite question of parents for their off spring as they arrive home from school (or parents home from work): “How was school?”
age 5/kindergarten: “Okay.” With silence and distraction back to whatever task child would like to engage in.
Five-year-olds are learning to “keep secrets.” School is often a “secret” to be held from anyone, including parents. Don’t worry, your 5-year-old will eventually “spill the beans” about everything and everyone at school. You’ll wonder how to stop him or her from talking–eventually. In the meantime, be patient and ask specifics; like, “Did you get to sit at a desk?” “Did the teacher ask you a question?” “Did you sing a song?” If your child is really reticent to talk about her life at school, don’t nag, be patient. Change the subject of what is happening elsewhere or what is for dinner or plans for the weekend. One of the ways to help a budding secret agent learn to share is around the dinner table, where everyone talks about their day. Teacher often use developmental task work to help their students share and take turns, learning to know when to “keep a secret” and “when to talk.”
age 6/1st grade: “We didn’t do much.” “It was boring.” “Tommy crawled under the teacher’s desk and she made him sit in the corner.”
Six-year-old’s are pursuing an early detective license. The only thing to be reported is what happened that was out of the ordinary. Don’t expect your 1st grader to find the first day of school to be “marvelous.” Having to wait in line, wait to talk, wait to go to lunch, wait to go to recess–well you can see how mundane school can be at first glance. As time goes on, your six-year-old will begin to feel challenged and want to explore more scholarly ways. BUT, they will always want to focus on the people and things that went “wrong” and provided a spark of pizzaz to their waiting in line day. Teachers will often anticipate the needs for “sparkle” and just as often stop the inappropriate laugher/teetering with explicit instructions for the next task or appropriate behavior.
Age 7/2nd grade: “Nothing.” “I don’t know.” “Fine.” “Okay.”
7-year-olds are practicing for their new role as a hermit. A lot is going on inside of them, but they aren’t too demonstrative about it–much different from just a year ago. The best time to really get something out of a 7-year-old is often during alone, quiet time with one adult. Two adults seem to be overwhelming to confide in all at once. A 7-year-old can sniff out a judgmental thought before you even knew you had it. He’ll clam up right away and it will quite awhile before your hermit opens up again. Gentle space with total acceptance, using reflective listening techniques usually gives this hermit the safe environment she needs to share her feelings. Teachers are aware of the quietness of this age and often use quiet methods to promote interaction and success in tasks.
Age 8/3rd graders: Girls: “There is so much to report to you I just don’t know where to start, but I’ll start anyway. First, let me tell you about every single person in my class. . . . .” Boys: “There was this one boy I sat next to. We talked a lot about ____.”
8-year-olds are learning the fine art of peer relationships. Girls will focus on as many other girls as possible, while boys will feel most comfortable with 1 or 2 best pals. Girls begin to have many mini-crises due to surges and depressions in girl relationships. Girls are very aware of the nuances of their teacher. They seem to enjoy a talkative teacher who notices things like pink bows and unicorns. Boys want to hang out with one or two of their friends, focusing on their area of interests. Boys have fewer crises, and they sure do wish that girls weren’t as noisy, demanding, or overwhelming as they are. Boys tend to like teachers who know how to interact on a one-to-one basis, with lots of support and understanding.
Now that I’ve said all the above, I want to retract it. Each child is on his or her own individual developmental pace. Some children are talkative when they’re 7 and some girls ignore other girls when their 8. So please don’t judge your child (or me) too harshly if we all don’t live up to what is “typical developmental” milestone behaviors. We all seem to run a little fast or a little slow, but the above gives us a kind of “rule of thumb” to be aware of.