Want to enjoy primary school? Find some good friends first

Before Jason entered Primary 1 last year, we did all sorts of things to prepare him. They ranged from teaching him how to order food, to packing his schoolbag, to telling time, and it went on. Then he started school. Each day when I dropped him off in school, I would send him off with reminders to pay attention in class, drink more water, be courteous. How dreary, now that I think back on it.

He didn’t take to Primary 1 the way I thought he would. He would drag his feet to school, saying it wasn’t fun. I found out later he did not have close friends because he rubbed his friends the wrong way, demanding to have his way all the time during group work. In Primary 1, he never spoke about his friends. In preschool, he had never had issues making friends – he always came back with stories about his best friends. So I didn’t think it would be any different in primary school, or that it would be necessary to teach him about friendships. Eventually, my husband and I gave him some gentle reminders about being a team player, about being a good friend to others, and left him to work out the issues.

Thankfully, by the second half of Primary 1, something clicked. It could have been the interclass singing competition practices that bonded the playful boys in his class, or the subsequent sports meet where his competitive streak was put to good use as he strategised the best way his class could win other classes. They didn’t win but Jason made himself a bunch of good friends in the process.

Having a best friend, and a group of close friends, made all the difference in his attitude towards school. I suppose it’s somewhat like having good friends at work. I could totally understand that. From dragging his feet to school at the beginning of last year, he progressed to begging me to leave home earlier every day by the end of last year, so he would have more precious minutes to play with his friends before the school bell rang. And instead of issuing him dreary reminders, I found myself telling him, “have fun in school!” as I dropped him off each day. I was so grateful he looked forward to going to school every day, little else mattered.

“I love going to school,” he would declare, proceeding to list recess breaks, PE and play time before the first bell rings, as his favourite moments. I didn’t bother pointing out to him it wasn’t really school school that he loved.

It didn’t matter what the programme was in school, everything was more fun when you had friends to go through it with you. Anything unpleasant became instantly more bearable: lectures from teachers for talking too much; 10-minute detention during recess, everything became that much easier to get through because he had friends in the same boat. I loved hearing about all the scrapes they got into.

His class was quite close-knit, largely due to their form teacher who rallied them all the time. They finally won the sports meet this year. Many of the parents were enthusiastic and supportive (in the Whatsapp chat group we’re in) and the class even had a year end party on the last day of school, including their teachers and parents.

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The class party was also the last time they were together as a group because the kids are split into different classes next year, after two years.

While their friendship is still going strong, Jason and his buddies have been having playdates during the school holidays. The boys (minus one who is overseas) came over to our place today and did all sorts of boy things, totally out of my depth. Nerf Guns, pillow fight, soccer in the void deck, Beyblades… I got my husband to keep an eye on them!

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They chattered non-stop from the time they came, they argued over which games to play, made much inane talk that only kids their age would get. Bottomline? They had loads of fun and are already planning the next playdate.

They’re in different classes next year. It’s a little too much to hope that they will remain best friends, but here’s hoping these boys will always find firm friends no matter where they go.

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