Every year, a group of students in our school undergo a big change in their lives, moving from the Primary School to Secondary School. Most of the students look forward to this change with a sense of excitement, seeing it as an opportunity.
Ana Maria Dobre
International British School of Bucharest
Every year, a group of students in our school undergo a big change in their lives, moving from the Primary School to Secondary School. Most of the students look forward to this change with a sense of excitement, seeing it as an opportunity to start anew, with greater independence, with experiences to be enjoyed, and new friends to make. For others though, the first day of Secondary School can be in equal parts exciting and terrifying: new classmates, new courses, new teachers, and new expectations can all be sources of anxiety for them.
From both groups, we can expect questions regarding social interactions (being around older children, not knowing the rules) and academic expectations (having different teachers, extra lessons, and more homework). This transition is a big stepping-stone, which can seem a little intimidating to parents and kids.
Thankfully we are doing a lot to help both the students and parents prepare for this transition. One way we are helping as a school is by maintaining a mentoring relationship with all the children, having opened conversations about what they can expect (for example: their responsibilities, the programme, new lessons, getting around the facility, behaviour expectations, break times and socializing with older pupils), inviting the Year 7 students into the primary school to talk about their experience moving from Year 6 to Year 7 and life in the Secondary, and offering the students a chance to experience Year 7 lessons, with the Secondary School teachers coming across to the primary school to teach a lesson and answer questions the Year 6 students might have, and finally arranging time with the school counsellors.
The children from Year 6 have 3 key sessions with the school counsellors to discuss personal values in connection with school values and the social, emotional skills needed to thrive in the secondary school environment – relating to building positive, healthy relationships, communicating effectively, effective time management, maintaining personal care and safety, and community participation.
Through our conversations and actions, we can all help (parents and teachers working together) the children to deal with their fears and identify the positive aspects of the move to middle school.
Here are some books that can help parents to better understand and support the pupil’s transition:
Adolescent children can pose great challenges to their parents in both positive and negative ways. As a matter of fact, developmental psychology informs us that the time of one’s life that is most stressful.
Ana Maria Dobre
International British School of Bucharest
Adolescent children can pose great challenges to their parents in both positive and negative ways. As a matter of fact, developmental psychology informs us that the time of one’s life that is most stressful is in fact the time when we parent teenage children.
The main reason for the perpetual conflictual state some families find themselves in, is the way natural developmental tasks conflict with parental beliefs about how a young person should act.
While adolescents struggle to find their identity and address their need for greater autonomy, defining one’s identity, self-worth, and enjoyment, parents usually stress the importance of high academic results and impeccable behaviour for their professional future.
While young people figure out how social relationships work outside the family, many parents set their personal expectations as the benchmark for them to have relationships, only allowing them to meet with people that match their set of values. Due to age and life experience difference, the values of the child and the values of the parent are often very different, and while everyone means well, everyone also makes mistakes.
To avoid ourselves becoming caught up in a whirlwind of conflict, groundings, and children lashing out, we need as adults to be aware of three important aspects.
Balance of Boundaries & Rules
All people need structure, to feel emotionally safe, but if the rules are too strict, too many or not clear enough, the teenager will tend to rebel against them in ways that can put them at risk.
Rules are for the entire family, not only for the children. If we have a rule that children are not allowed to insult anyone, we must respect that rule as well. Boundaries are important for both sides. If we want our children to respect our boundaries, then we must respect theirs also.
Boundaries that are too loose or not age-appropriate can determine disruptive, uncalculated risk-taking behaviours. Balance is the key-word here.
Be aware of the developmental tasks adolescents face and while guiding them, leave them enough space to become their own people.
Some of the teenage developmental tasks have been listed in the introduction to this article, but I strongly suggest that adults who have a duty of care towards adolescents read more about this topic here.
I can’t stress enough how important this one is. Make sure your teenager feels safe enough in their relationship with you so that if something bad happens, they trust you enough to tell you. Often teenagers that are afraid of their primary care adults’ reactions or ashamed to talk to the adults around them, hiding important things to the point where there is not much that can be done to prevent them.
Some of the things young people do can create extreme anxiety in parents, but it is very important to find meaningful, non-violent ways of communicating that will support finding solutions together rather than making things worse. Never let your anxiety or frustration override your calm.
Some young people don’t feel safe in their own homes, hurting their emotional well being and stability in the long term, just as much as families that have violent children are hurt. Not feeling safe at home, will often lead to serious anxiety problems and long term complex trauma. One does not need to abuse a child physically for this to happen. Verbal and emotional violence are just as hurtful and damaging.
The best thing a parent can do for their child is to be a safety net for them, so that the child knows that no matter the mistake they make, they have a safe relationship to turn to for advice, help, and support.
Although as parents we often feel that learning is the realm of teachers and schools, there is much we can do as parents to pay an important role in the lives of our children in the learning process. Primarily we can be there to encourage and support them, taking and active interest in there learning progress by asking them about their day and what they enjoyed most. It’s important that this should come across as sincere interest, rather than an interrogation from the Spanish inquisition. Ask them open ended questions that encourage a longer, more in depth reply, rather than auxiliary verb (is, are, did, does, etc.) yes/no questions.
Even better would be to share the leaning journey with your children by talking about something you are learning, perhaps a course you are taking or a book you are reading. Our school vision statement is ‘to build a community of passionate, lifelong learners’ and we see parents very much as partners in this journey, both working in close partnership with the teachers, but also playing a key role in the lives of their children as a role model for their children of a lifelong learner themselves.
If you have not yet heard about the online platform Coursera, I would very much encourage you to visit and sign up. You will have access to the largest selection of university courses around the world, many of which are free. There are currently 30 million users with the number increasing daily.
I myself just saw a course titled Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects
by McMaster University & University of California San which recently piqued my interest, so I actually just signed up and will start this weekend. It looks like a course we should all take both as learners ourselves, and as parents. We should never be too old to learn.
Below are a few of the most interesting practical tips relating to learning that are discussed on the MOOC website:
Get sufficient sleep in order to think well – We often hear the advice that a good night’s rest will help us to think more clearly. The material in the MOOC gives us great animations that help us understand why: when we sleep, our brain cells shrink a little bit, and that allows fluids to wash out the toxins that accumulate in the brain. Thus, if you pull an all-nighter before an exam, you are literally “going in to take a test with a poisoned brain”
Use the Pomodoro technique to battle procrastination – When we are faced with something that we do not like (e.g., working on a math problem), pain centers in our brain will initially light up. There are two ways we can react: we can quickly shift our attention to something else in order to avoid the feeling of pain (that is, procrastinate), or we can continue to work through the pain—after 15 to 20 minutes, it will fade away. Thus, we need to trick our brains into not taking the easy way out, and just persevere a little bit. A popular technique for helping with this is the Pomodoro Technique in which you set a timer for 25 minutes, work on the task at hand for that time, then take a 5 minute break, at which point you reward yourself.
Use spaced repetition to help remember key facts – There is a trend to move away from rote memorization to emphasizing engaging learning experiences, like working on real-world problems with your peers, and this is a good trend. However, memorization is still an important part of learning—you need to have a store of relevant information with which to make higher-level connections. Barbara advocates the use of Anki, a free spaced repetition software tool to help reinforce facts periodically before you forget them (and incidentally, so does the irrepressible language hacker, Benny the Irish Polyglot).
To test whether you’ve really learned something, try recalling it – When students read textbooks, for example, many try to reinforce what they’ve learned by extensive highlighting or re-reading the information. Barbara points to a series of studies that show that these techniques are inferior to simply trying to recall the information—you can create flashcards to test yourself, or simply glance away from a page and recalling what you’ve just read.
Try learning in different locations – Research shows that you have the best recall of things you’ve learned when you are in the same settings. Thus, if you are a student, one approach might be to do all of your studying in a classroom, which is where you will take the test. But Barbara has a much better suggestion, and that is to vary where you study so that you don’t become attached to any specific environmental factors, thus making your learning more robust.
Colour Easter Eggs (a popular Romanian tradition)
Younger children and even the older ones sometimes, love painting and preparing Easter Eggs for Easter. In Romanian we have the tradition to colour the eggs and then to crack them for good luck. Maybe this year instead of just colouring them a single colour you can get a little more creative and colour eggs with a variety of patterns. It may get a bit messy, but it is sure to be a lot of fun.
Prepare an Easter Egg Hunt
I was lucky enough to grow up with a big yard and with parents who took the time to arrange an Easter Egg hunt for us as children every year. It was an amazing time and I remember being so excited as I ran from point to point reading the cryptic clues and collecting eggs along the way. It takes a little time to arrange, but is well worth it as it will be a memory for your children for life.
Arrange a few Easter Egg Games
In addition to organising an Easter Egg hunt, you can add other interesting games, like an egg and spoon relay, or setting up an obstacle course using eggs as markers, or playing a game where you have to try to roll the egg into a circle, etc. There are many different fun games you could play. Children are incredible creative, so more than likely then will come up with their own fun games.
Make Hot Cross Buns
You can celebrate Easter with these yummy breakfast treats quickly and easily. They are fun to make and great to eat with lashings of butter melting on them fresh from the oven.
Share the Story of Easter
Another great idea is to spend some quality time reading a traditional Easter story or watching an Easter movie together. In time, this might become an annual family tradition that your children look forward to and you too!
Why focus on kindness?
Ask parents what they want above all for their kids and most will say “happiness.” It’s what we’re all seeking, really. And we’re seeking it all the time, regardless of age, race, gender, or religion. But for some, happiness can be hard to find.
The big question is this:
It turns out – and to borrow the words of a wise man – yes, we can.
The life-changing magic of being compassionate
“Our mind works significantly better when positive than when negative, stressed, or even neutral!”
Our personal experience of happiness is determined by three main things:
The first two are more difficult to control. The easiest and most powerful way to influence our own happiness is by far through the third item: Intentional positive actions that we commit to practicing every day. Studies have shown that this can determine how happy we are by up to 40%. The positive actions that have been scientifically proven to be most effective at increasing our sense of happiness include: Acts of kindness, expressing gratitude, journaling, and meditation.
How can we help our children to learn to be this way?
Modelling desired behaviour is one very important way to do this. As the saying goes “monkey see, monkey do.” And while our children may not be monkeys, they learn much about the world through observation and imitation. As parents we need to regularly demonstrate kindness and compassion – to ourselves and to others – so we normalize it to our children.
“Not every day is good, but there is something good in everyday.”
The next best thing to do is to build a happiness habit right from the start. By encouraging your child to take several minutes of each day to refocus their mind toward personal aspirations and accomplishments, the most joyful moments of their day, to take note of the kindness they experienced from others in the day, and setting an intention for kind acts tomorrow, can actually reprogram their mindset and behaviour to become more positive in order to create more success, happiness, and reward in their lives. Do this yourself as well!
“Children who learn how to be happy when they are young, carry the lesson throughout their lives.”
The digital age has made it possible for our children to have unregulated access to more content than any previous generation. As a result, it can seem at times as though the world is becoming colder and evermore unkind, filled with negative people and sad events. However, seeing things this way is not only unhealthy but also fundamentally untrue. It’s important and stunningly restorative to teach our children – and remind ourselves – that the world is, for the most part, a good place.
Intensive exercise improves the academic performance of teenagers, according to new research.
The study, of about 5,000 children, found links between exercise and exam success in English, maths and science.
It found an increase in performance for every extra 17 minutes boys exercised, and 12 minutes for girls.
The study by the universities of Strathclyde and Dundee found physical activity particularly benefited girls’ performance at science.
The authors said this could be a chance finding or reflect gender differences in the impact of physical activity on the brain.
Children who carried out regular exercise, not only did better academically at 11 but also at 13 and in their exams at 16, the study suggested.
‘Low exercise levels’
Most of the teenagers’ exercise levels were found to be well below the recommended 60 minutes a day.
The authors speculated what might happen to academic performance if children got the recommended amount.
They claimed that since every 15 minutes of exercise improved performance by an average of about a quarter of a grade, it was possible children who carried out 60 minutes of exercise every day could improve their academic performance by a full grade – for example, from a C to a B, or a B to an A.
However, the authors admitted this was speculation given that very few children did anywhere near this amount of exercise.
Dr Josie Booth, one of the leaders of the study, from Dundee University said: “Physical activity is more than just important for your physical health.
“There are other benefits and that is something that should be especially important to parents, policy-makers and people involved in education.”
The authors of the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, said further research backing the findings could have implications fore public health and education policy.
The study was funded by a grant from the BUPA Foundation to the University of Strathclyde.
1. The conditions to learn and develop
Children need to be given the conditions to learn and develop. This includes cognitive and emotional development, fostered through access to play in the early years and high quality education in school, and physical development, for example through a nutritious diet. School is a key area of children’s lives where experiences vary greatly and negative experiences have a significant impact on well-being.
2. A positive view of themselves and an identity that is respected
Children need to see themselves in a positive light, and deserve to feel, and be, respected by all adults and other children. Our evidence shows that how children feel about their appearance, whether they are being bullied, and whether they believe that their voice is being heard and opinions respected, are key drivers of their well-being
3. Have enough of what matters
Children’s well-being is affected by ‘having enough’ and ‘fitting in’ rather than being rich or accumulating material goods purely for its own sake. Family circumstances, household income, and parental employment are key factors which determine whether children have access to those items and experiences.
4. Have positive relationships with family and friends
Children want and need positive, loving relationships with the people closest to them. Overall, the strongest driver of low subjective well-being is where children experience weak and uncaring relationships with their family or carer. The structure of the family itself has only a small effect on a child’s well-being. Children also need positive, stable, relationships with their friends, with social isolation a strong driver of low levels of well-being.
5. A safe and suitable home environment and local area
Children need safe and suitable environments at home and in their local area. Where children are unhappy in these environments, often through feeling unsafe, feeling that they have a lack of privacy, or feeling that their home or local area has inadequate facilities, this has a strong association with lower levels of well-being.
6. Opportunity to take part in positive activities to thrive
A healthy balance of time use is as important for children as it is for adults. The need for a balance that suits the individual needs of children means that they should be actively involved in decisions about how they spend their time.
As next week is World Book Week here at IBSB, I thought it might be nice to look for some good parenting advice on supporting your children to read more at home, so here are some suggestions on how you can help to make reading a positive experience and encourage your children to read more.
1. Choose a quiet time
Set aside some quiet time with no distractions. Ten to fifteen minutes is usually long enough.
2. Make reading enjoyable
Make reading an enjoyable experience. Sit with your child. Don’t put pressure on them if they are reluctant. If your child loses interest then do something else.
3. Maintain the flow
If your child mispronounces a word do not interrupt immediately. Instead allow opportunity for self-correction. It is better to tell a child some unknown words to maintain the flow rather than insisting on trying to build them all up from the sounds of the letters. If your child does try to ‘sound out’ words, encourage the use of letter sounds rather than ‘alphabet names’.
4. Be positive
If your child says something nearly right to start with that is fine. Don’t say ‘No. That’s wrong,’ but ‘Let’s read it together’ and point to the words as you say them. Boost your child’s confidence with constant praise for even the smallest achievement.
5. Success is the key
Parents anxious for a child to progress can mistakenly give a child a book that is too difficult. This can have the opposite effect to the one they are wanting. Remember ‘Nothing succeeds like success’. Until your child has built up his or her confidence, it is better to keep to easier books. Struggling with a book with many unknown words is pointless. Flow is lost, text cannot be understood and children can easily become reluctant readers.
6. Visit the Library
Encourage your child to use the public library regularly.
7. Regular practice
Try to read with your child on most school days. ‘Little and often’ is best. Teachers have limited time to help your child with reading.
Your child will most likely have a reading diary from school. Try to communicate regularly with positive comments and any concerns. Your child will then know that you are interested in their progress and that you value reading.
9. Talk about the books
There is more to being a good reader than just being able to read the words accurately. Just as important is being able to understand what has been read. Always talk to your child about the book; about the pictures, the characters, how they think the story will end, their favourite part. You will then be able to see how well they have understood and you will help them to develop good comprehension skills.
10. Variety is important
Remember children need to experience a variety of reading materials eg. picture books, hard backs, comics, magazines, poems, and information books.
11. Set aside family time for reading
If you want your children to read more, set aside family time for reading. I know of a number of families that do this and it really does work.
12. Lead by example
Finally, it is important for your children to see you reading and enjoying the pleasure of reading. Do just tell your children to turn of the television or their digital devices and read more, do it yourself and lead by example. Children can smell hypocrisy a mile off and usually take a personal offence to it.