It’s that time of year again; when parents and kids are forced to think about where they’re going to be in about another year. If you are the parent of a young child, around 2 or 3 years old right now, you’re probably stressing out, and maybe even panicking, thinking about what school your precious son or daughter will be attending next year.
To start with, will there be an open slot for your child in your dream school?
The Schooling System!
I hear stories about schools that were only accepting new applications for 3 HOURS! Other schools didn’t even take a single new student, and one school only had about 30 available slots, and over 300 applicants. Feels more like a lottery-type situation than a right that belongs to everyone. So, what happens when there seems to be only 5 schools that everyone is applying to? If you even think about applying to a school that’s not on The List, you are met with disapproving frowns and gaping mouths, “You’re so weird! Maybe you should think about just homeschooling your child,” I’ve been repeatedly told, “You’re never going to find what you’re looking for here, you need to leave this country”.
American / British / Canadian / French / German / National ?!
What about which educational system to choose
Is British, American, French, Canadian, German, or National the best? How much do they really differ, and who’s to say which is superior? Is it even possible to have a truly objective opinion? Every child is different and each parent’s priorities are not the same.
I heard a group of moms at a school parent meeting complain that their children are not getting “enough” homework, they want their own kids to be so overwhelmed by schoolwork, so that they don’t have a single second to hassle or annoy them. Other parents are more concerned with the existence of a well-rounded education, with an emphasis on art, creativity and extra-curricular activities. And another set of parents choose a school based on their behavior management system, believing their child needs to be disciplined and understand that the world will not be handed to them on a silver platter.
On another note, one of the major stressors for any parent is the ability to be able to afford their dream school. Will I be able to offer my child the best education money can buy, or will I have to sell my car, or , worse yet, one of my kidneys? Keep in mind that sending your child to just any old school won’t do, it must be “socially acceptable” and sought after; the harder it is to get in to, the more desirable it becomes.
I was looked at as if I came from another planet when I expressed my amazement that some schools need a ‘wasta’ (special, personal connections with the people in charge) for a student to be admitted. “Oh, you think you can get in that easily?” they scoffed, “do you even know anyone high up?” It’s a really sad time when you realize that your child’s future is dependent on who you know and how socially connected you are.
The worst and most horrific part of this entire ordeal: the dreaded school assessment. Picture this: the school so graciously decides to allow you to come in for an assessment, to see if your child is worthy of joining their school – but, please, don’t forget to bring the required fee with you! So, you and dozens of other parents and their children are, much to everyone’s surprise, invited to take the assessment AT THE EXACT SAME TIME; you already know there will be a ton of waiting and fidgeting for your little toddler that day.
Once you arrive, you are expected to hand over your child to a complete stranger, who will take them into a room they have never been in before, to be placed in a situation they have never experienced before.
And of course, he/she must be a “good little girl/boy,” and not cry when they are yanked away from the safety of their caregiver. Your child is then, for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours, bombarded with questions and activities, all to prove how worthy they are to be part of this precious establishment.
Mind you, your child is being assessed to enter a grade that is almost an entire year ahead, and yet they’re being told that they must possess this prodigious set of skills in order to be deemed “worthy.” If they can’t count from 1-20, write their name or draw a picture of themselves, then they are “not ready” – for playschool. I know of parents who hire private tutors to prepare their children for these extreme assessments.
While others pressure, threaten and even bribe their children to do well when the dreaded day arrives. What kind of messages are being sent to our children? How do you think this affects them psychologically? Do you think these children will have a secure and confident sense of self after being put through all of this?
We Can Change This.
In conclusion, even though we can’t do much about how our society is set up, or how exploitative the educational system has become in our country, the only thing we CAN do is try to change how we approach it. We do have control over ourselves and how we use this opportunity to either boost our child’s self-esteem and motivation, or imply to them that their achievements and success are the only way to define themselves.
You have to let your child know that, no matter how they perform, that they are still loved and appreciated, as long as they try their best. Explain to them that these assessments are just standard procedure, but that who you are as a human being (how you treat yourself and others, how you care about the world, etc.) is what really matters. Gently, talk to them about what to expect that day, answer any questions they may have and help them predict any challenges that might come their way.
Give them the necessary tools & skills they need to deal with such an experience, so that you can all use this as an opportunity for learning and growth, instead of it being something traumatic.
Like Rudolph Dreikurs once said, “A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, to learn about more ways to encourage your child, and foster a healthy sense of self.
Make sure to join our conversation around mental health on the EMPWR Facebook Community Group: “The Empower Community”