You won’t be there all the time…

Sometimes I think parents are more frightened of their child starting school than the child!

Let’s face it, some parents have spent the previous four to five years hovering over their child in an effort to protect them from … well, just about everything.

The problem with that is your child learns virtually no life skills that will help when they grow up.


Bugs, bugs and more bugs

The average school yard is going to be a Petri dish of germs and bugs of all shapes and sizes. I can see some of you squirming already, but, this is good a thing. The more exposure your child has to everyday microorganisms when they’re young means they will have a stronger immune system as they age. So, by the time they’re a teenager, they can survive most of what could come into their personal biosphere.


Personal Space – What’s that?

The next thing kids learn about is other people and personal space.

Who hasn’t been walking through a school yard and been pushed or bumped into by some out-of-control kid with the hardest knees or head on the planet! Yes, ouch! It really hurts! Not only that, but then they often turn around and blame you for being in their way. So not only are they totally oblivious of others, but they’re a bully too.

Your child needs to learn about personal space and resilience. Telling the bully to, “Watch out!” and, “Be considerate of others who are also playing” can be useful retorts in this case. Usually, this will cause the offender to stop and collect them self, but if the bully is a lot older and has been around the school for a longer time, they might resist, or become more physical. In this case, your child should try to find a teacher on duty to resolve the situation. Who cares if someone calls your child a derogatory name for getting someone in authority, that’s why there is a duty teacher for such confrontations! It’s better than trying to fight a bigger person and coming off second best. It also shows the bully that they won’t get away with this type of behaviour in the school yard.


Playground tips

Most playgrounds are quite safe to play in these days. In fact, I think some have gone too far in protecting children from scrapes and bruises. The life skills that can be learned at the average playground are things like:

Physical boundaries – kids can’t travel through walls or partitions.

Gravity – you need to hold on or you’ll fall.

Climbing – this is fun but needs to be learned coming down as well as going up (unless you don’t know about No. 2).

Pendulums – when you push something one way, it will come back again with pretty much the same speed, distance and force. Hence, learn to avoid swings when someone is using them.

Rotational Movement – big horizontally spinning wheels start as fun, but can make you feel sick after a while. You also learn about centrifugal force, which can throw you off the wheel if you’re not holding on tightly enough when it’s spinning fast.


How to cope with accidents

If your best efforts to train your child to avoid accidents have gone astray, then teach them how to cope with the aftermath.

For example, if your child has tripped over and scraped their knee, there’s lots of crying and wailing (sometimes screaming), grabbing of the damaged knee, tears, screwed up eyes, dirt, gravel, cut skin, and a bit of blood. When you stand back (metaphorically) and observe the whole scene, the most important thing for a parent to do in this situation is hug your child. Give them love and reassurance and say things like:

It’s OK, my darling.

You are so brave.

Let me look at it and clean it up for you.

Let me kiss it better.

With this last one, you may be amazed at the healing qualities of a parent’s gentle and loving kiss. It comes with a warning though, but it’s well worth it. Be prepared to kiss pretty much all wounds that your child may present to you, whether they are covered in dirt, grit, and blood. Only spit out or wipe away the remnants when your child isn’t looking up at you with pleading eyes.

In the school yard, you won’t be around to do this, so your child needs to know what to do for themselves:

Check for broken bones or serious muscle or ligament damage by looking at the injury site and comparing it with the symmetrically opposite part of the body. (If there are obvious signs of real trauma, such as a bone sticking through the skin in a compound fracture, a visit to the doctor or hospital will be required as soon as possible.)

If it looks pretty much the same, then try to gently move the injured area.

If this can be done easily, then apply some resistance to the movement, such as wrapping a sore finger around another and gently pulling on it.

If they can do this without too much pain, move the injured part in the four directions – up, down, left, and right – against gentle resistance.

If that is still fine, then put some weight on it, such as standing up on a sore leg.

Each step in the process goes a little further than the last, and it shows a clear strategy to follow whenever your child is hurt. This is far better than blind fear or panic, and gives them a life skill.

Sometimes, a child who has been hurt more seriously won’t be as noisy as a child who has a little scrape or cut. Also, the sight of blood can be a frightening thing for a young child even if it is the merest speck on the end of their finger. Reassure them, kiss it better, and tell them to suck on it. Unless they have been sticking their fingers in faeces, or other gross things, such as a dead animal carcass, it is reasonably safe to put their fingers in their mouth. Saliva has some antimicrobial properties, and I am more inclined to believe that a child who is gently exposed to the variety of germs that normally exist in our environment has a better immune system because it is always bubbling along underneath hidden away, but still doing its vital role and helping to keep your child well.