Updated: May 8
NINA BULAJIĆ, PSYCHOLOGIST AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF BLOOM SCHOOL SARAJEVO, FOR LADIES IN MAGAZINE
Starting school is a very important life chapter for the whole family: uncertainty, excitement, fear of the unknown, happiness... Lots of intense and intertwined emotions at the same time. But nevertheless, optimism and enthusiasm prevail over time and this adventure becomes a nice experience for everyone. Most children have already gone through the first "preparations" for separation from their parents by starting kindergarten/preschool, and separation from their parents itself should not be a big challenge.
Parents should have an optimistic approach to this new process, but avoid imputing emotions in the context of how the child should feel. "You'll see, it'll be great!", and "It's nice at school and you'll be happy there!", are phrases that we say with the best intentions, in order to comfort the child and soothe their fear of the unknown. In this way, we can cause a feeling of remorse in the child if they feel sad, lonely or unhappy in the first days at school.
For this reason, it is important to have a conversation with the child through which we will let them know that they are starting a new adventure, that they will meet new teachers and new friends, and that everything they feel in those moments is natural and normal. After each day, you can talk with the child about how the day went at school and have them name the best moment, as well as the moment/situation that was not nice for him. In this way, we establish a useful routine with our child, but also encourage the child to share his experiences and feelings with us.
When it comes to older students, the challenges are different, because they are in a developmental period in which belonging to peer groups and the social aspect are the most important drivers in every respect. Their main role models are no longer adults, but their peers. With this age, it is important to discuss school obligations in the context of adequate organisation of their time and encourage them to have enough time during the day for both school obligations and social life. Sometimes, as adults, the problems and challenges children face seem trivial compared to the everyday challenges we face. However, do not forget their age and how important it is to them at that moment - listen to them, give them space to share with you what is happening to them and what they feel. The pace of life and the circumstances in which children grow up are very challenging and just one conversation to let them know that they are not alone, that we are there for them and that we hear them, can make a significant difference and encourage them to seek help from adults they trust, in case they find themselves in a situation where they need our help.
Every parent wants the best for their child and has a vision of what the child needs. But, the question arises: is what we consider best what the child really wants? Will it bring them success in life? Our generation has a specific vision of success, because of the system in which we grew up and were educated in. Many years of experience working with children has taught me that a happy and successful child is one who follows their dream, does what they love and develops their potential at their own pace of progress, whether it is natural sciences, language, social sciences, arts, technical achievements , extreme sports, fashion... I wouldn't say it is a mistake that parents make. Rather, I would call them the most common traps that parents fall into due to societal expectations or fear of failure.
Extracurricular activities are useful and healthy for students of all ages, especially if it is something that the child enjoys and does not perceive as an obligation, but as a pleasure and enjoys spending time in that environment. I believe that there is no optimal number of extracurricular activities that a child should attend, it is very individual and depends on the child. However, I would like to emphasise that parents should keep in mind that children need a sufficient amount of sleep and rest after a day at school, as well as quality time spent with family members.