Primary school children have a number of important skills to develop via the curriculum but one area that is difficult to measure is their ability to build relationships with peers. Being able to connect in a meaningful way with people can be one of the most important qualities anyone can possess.
The effects of early childhood peer relationships
Peer relationships have always been thought to play a critical role in childhood development and many studies have proved this theory correct over the past thirty years. Research suggests healthy relationships with peers in early childhood can have a positive impact on how as adolescents they will respond to social adjustments, which in turn will help them become capable and confident young adults who can handle the many challenges that life throws at them.
What role do groups play in relationships?
During the years your child attends primary school, peers will play an increasing role in influencing your child’s decision-making processes and therefore behaviour.
Sean Slade, Director of the Whole Child Initiative has determined that at this age, influence of peers is strong and peer pressure can play both a negative and positive role in your child’s experience at school.
If, for example, your children’s friends encourage your child to resist bad behaviour and do their best work, this could certainly be a positive but if those same friends encourage your child to do something they aren’t comfortable with, this may prove to be having a negative impact on their school experience.
It is during this time that your child is still learning his or her own values and may need guidance when he or she is faced with conflicts between loyalty to the group and fairness to outsiders. In situations like this, children can become concerned with disappointing their friends. Some studies show that children from around age nine recognise the value of group loyalty and can start to experience peer pressure.
Talk to your child about bullying and cyberbullying
Bullying can take many forms and is a complex and sensitive topic. In some cases, your child may not realise what they have experienced or how they have acted is bullying making it an important topic for conversation at any age.
Speaking to your child about their friends, their day at school and understanding their online use will help you to be able to understand the relationship they have with people and help to identify if something isn’t quite right. Encourage your children to surround themselves by only those who lift them higher.
The rise of bullying in schools is a growing concern for students, families, The Catholic Schools Office and the Australian government who all have a social responsibility to keep our youth safe. The government have a number of resources available for parents on the topic of bullying, you can access them here.