Thursday, August 18, 2011

School's Starting, and I'm Afraid

Dear Madame L,

When I married my husband, I took his surname as my own (unlike some of my friends), even though it's an unusual name. Now I wonder if I should have done that, because my 5-year-old is going to be starting kindergarten next week, and I'm worried the other kids will make fun of him.

Do you have any suggestions for helping my child deal with these kids?


Scared for my child

Dear Scared,

Madame L feels your pain and that of your innocent son. The world is full of name-callers and bullies, and they do start early, don't they. 

Yet Madame L would advise you to worry less about this specific issue and work instead on preparing him for the general issue of how to get along with the many kids, nice kids and bullies, whom he will be interacting with now. The general people skills your child picks up in kindergarten will help him this school year and next, and continue with him through adulthood, when he will be dealing with adults who will be mostly very much like the kids they are now.

If he can get along with kids in general, then the name issue won't bother him too much. So here are Madame L's suggestions for helping him hold his ground with the mean kids:

---Talk to him, now, and every day from now on, in a positive manner about school, his teacher, and the other kids. 

---You have been involving him with other children already, haven't you --- in pre-school, play groups, and so on? These will have already given him a healthy start. 

---Go to back-to-school night and socialize with everyone there. Get to know the parents and associate them with their children. 

---Meet his teacher, volunteer to be a room mother or assistant (or whatever you have time for).

---When he comes home from school each day, help him settle into a comfortable place and a relaxed mood, and ask how his day went. (Don't interrogate him, though, and be aware of his nonverbal responses.)

---Teach him to be kind and respectful to other children. Model kind and courteous behavior at home and every place you go with your child. (For example, no yelling at a salesclerk or snickering behind someone's back.)

---One thing you can do now to prepare your child for your specific concern is to find out everything you can about your surname. An excellent resource is the Surname Database, which gives the historical background, origin and meaning of the name, and more. If your son knows about his family history, that may help his self-esteem and his ability to deal with bullies. (Research your maiden name and tell him about that, too!)  

Best of luck,

Madame L

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