Is my child emotionally ready for school?

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1. 4 - 6 year olds: Growing up fast

Between the ages of four and six, children start to take their first steps towards going out into the world and being an independent little person. Children go through lots of different emotional stages in these years and you may start to see big changes in their emotions and social skills. This can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time!

As parents or carers, there are things we can do to help them develop good social skills, understand and manage their emotions so they’re ready to deal with all the new challenges life throws at them.

2. What's going on inside their minds?

CBeebies Dad and presenter Alex Winters set off on a mission to find out about the kind of problems parents come across when children reach this age.

In this video top child psychologist Laverne Antrobus talks through the changes that four to six year olds go through, and what parents can do to help.

3. Help your child manage new situations

Many children this age will go through big life changes like starting school or nursery, or becoming a big brother or sister to a new sibling. Both of these situations can be really difficult for children (and parents!) to handle at first. Setting aside a bit of one to one time every day to talk to your child about how they are feeling can really help – bedtime is great for this, when children's minds naturally digest the day.

Talking through the day's events, how they made them feel, and what they are expecting from tomorrow can help children plan and anticipate any tricky situations and begin to think about their own behaviour. Children this age still need help understanding their own emotions so sometimes you might need to help them put a name to their feelings, e.g. "Yes, I think you were feeling quite frustrated when you kicked your brother’s toys over…"

As children’s understanding of the world develops they might well start wondering about life and death and asking some pretty deep questions. How you answer ‘Where do you go when you die?’ will depend on what you believe yourself, but often what children need most when they ask these kinds of questions is to know that you are listening to them and understand their worries.

4. Making and keeping friends

Between four and six, as children’s social skills develop, they may start to play more with each other and develop favourite friends. Learning how to be a good friend and manage the feelings that come with it can be difficult for children this age and you may well see lots of arguments, bossiness and frustration. This is completely normal and part of children trying to assert their place in the world.

Try and stand back from any squabbles and disputes and let children work it out for themselves – this goes for siblings too! Learning how to deal with conflict and resolve disputes is essential for developing good social skills.

5. Top Tips for sorted kids and happy parents

In this video, Child Psychologist Laverne Antrobus shares her top tips for helping your child to develop good social skills and understand their emotions.

1: Make sure you notice when your child does something good and praise them for it. When you see you child being kind and thoughtful, make sure you let them know how proud you are of them and talk about why what they did was good.

2: Try and let them work out squabbles and disputes for themselves.

3: Give children jobs and responsibilities. This makes them feel special and makes your life easier!

4. Take time to review the day with your child at bedtime and plan for tomorrow.

6. Children's changing tastes

As children reach five or six, you’ll probably notice their new-found independence means they want to make their own choices about how they entertain themselves. It can feel quite strange for a parent to realise you’re not the only influence on your child anymore, as they come home from school talking about TV shows and websites you’ve never heard of!

If they decide that they’re suddenly too grown-up for CBeebies, don’t worry! CBBC has an amazing range of exciting things for older children to enjoy, both on the website and channel - from award-winning shows like ‘Horrible Histories’ and the ‘Tracy Beaker’ series to ground-breaking natural history and science shows like ‘Deadly 60’ and ‘Operation Ouch’.

Make some time to cuddle up and watch a few CBBC shows on iPlayer or explore the website together – you may think they’re all grown-up, but setting aside time to enjoy new things together still makes children this age feel really special.

7. How can I help my child?

What do you think your child struggles with most?

Coping with change

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Coping with change

Structure and routine in children’s home life, and parents setting boundaries, can make children feel more secure and able to deal with big life changes.

Making and keeping friends

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Making and keeping friends

Notice and praise your child when they’re being kind and playing nicely with a friend. Explain why being thoughtful is important.

Sibling squabbles and rivalry

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Sibling squabbles and rivalry

Standing back and letting children sort squabbles out for themselves helps them to develop important social skills.

Starting school or nursery

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Starting school or nursery

Familiarising your child with school routines and making time to talk each day can help them feel less anxious and think through situations they find difficult.