Preparing for Primary 1: Socially (Friends and Bullies)

Other than equipping your child with practical skills for Primary 1, social skills are important as well. Preparing him or her to navigate Primary 1 socially could lead to a happier time in school!

Having conversations with children about primary school can ease their anxieties. I will include some of the conversation starters below. Jump to the relevant section for further tips:

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Making Friends

Many children will find it intimidating to see many new faces in a new environment, especially the introverts. Assure your child that she* is not alone. The other students are likely to be facing the same anxieties and fears.

*Because I am writing this article with my daughter in mind, I will use ‘she’ instead of ‘he/she’.

Conversation Starters

Ask your child about the ways she can make friends:

  • What can you do to make friends?
  • What words or questions can you use to make friends?

Let your child know that it’s normal to feel disappointed when someone doesn’t want to be her friend. Let go and make other friends. Also, avoid pressuring your child to make friends when they are not ready or comfortable yet.

Remind your child not to chit-chat when the teacher is teaching or when instructed to be silent.

Guide on How to Make Friends

From the questions above, guide her on how to friend others:

  • Recognise those interested in talking, playing or being friends with her. They are those with smiles or already looking or watching at what she is doing. Children playing in groups are less likely to respond well because they are already having fun.
  • Smile, say ‘Hello’, and introduce herself. “Hello, my name is ___. What’s yours?” You can play pretend to help her practise.
  • She can follow up with some icebreaker questions:
    • Do you have any brothers or sisters? If yes, how many? What are their names?
    • What are some things you like to do for fun?
    • Do you have any pets? If yes, what animal is that? What is the name?
  • If the other party is in the middle of something, strike up a conversation and test the waters with such questions:
    • What’s that?
    • What are you doing?
    • Can I play too? (Learning to ask politely to join the group.)
  • Be interested and listen.
  • Go with the flow and take turns with ideas and games. Don’t insist on going her own way.
  • Manage negative emotions well. Even if the friends choose not to let her join or play her games, teach her to say it’s okay nicely instead of kicking up a fuss. Teach her to manage her emotions (more on this in my next post).
Social skills are developed in a playground at Hualien

Bullying in School

Conversation Starters

This Channel News Asia article (“CNA”) helps me understand how I can support my child as a parent concerning school bullies.

Ask your child about bullies (conversation starters):

  • What is a bully?
  • What if you meet with a bully?

From these questions, guide her along the topic of school bullies.

Being Bullied

Firstly, let your child know the definition of a bully so that she can spot a bully.

According to, bullying is behaviour that is repeated and intended to cause psychological, social or physical harm.

In simpler terms, a bully is someone who hurts another person on purpose, repeatedly (i.e. more than once), and over time. They hurt with their words or actions — words include saying nasty things and spreading rumours (untrue things), while actions could be hitting and pushing the other person. Bullies may even ask others to join in the bullying. As a result of bullying, the victim is scared, nervous, anxious, sad, or physically hurt.

Secondly, teach your child what to do when she sees a bully.

  • If your child sees someone bullying another person (over some time), tell her to let the teacher know.
  • If someone is bullying your child,
    • Empower her to stand up for themselves. Teach your child words she can use, such as, “Stop it, I don’t like it.” and leave the scene. Parents can role-play with the child on responses towards a bully.
    • Share their discomfort with teachers, friends, or any trusted adults around.
    • Ask your child to let you know if there are incidents that make her feel upset and uncomfortable. Avoid jumping to conclusions before finding out from friends and teachers.
Children on a mega swing in a playground at Hualien

Being Bullied (Parental Support)

Is your child bullied – what can you do as a parent?

Spend time talking to your child. This can help build a strong parent-child bond and create a safe space for her to share her troubles. Safe space means being responsive to the child’s emotional needs and not judging (connect before correcting). This will also avoid accidental victim blaming. According to the CNA article, this strong bond and safe space allow children to feel secure enough to confide in their parents during distress.

Moreover, for children who don’t share much about school, these regular check-ins will give parents opportunities to spot warning signs of being bullied: change in behaviour and personality, school refusal, having broken or lost belongings frequently, etc.

The parent can then report the bullying before it worsens. At home, the parent can support the child emotionally and practically by suggesting ways the child can cope with school bullying.

Being a Bully

I don’t want my child to be bullied, nor do I want her to be a bully. It’s important the child can manage her emotions and actions and not “accidentally” become a bully.

According to the CNA article, empathy training seems effective in lowering bullying rates among students. Training your child to have empathy can reduce her chances of becoming a bully. Be a good role model and role-play in empathic responses. Help your child understand diverse perspectives.

Lastly, be involved in the child’s life to spot the first signs of struggles in the early stages, for both bullies and victims.

That’s about it! Before you go, you might want to check out my other posts about Preparing for Primary 1. Leave your comments or questions below. Love to hear from you. πŸ™‚

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