Tell Me About It

My daughter will be the only child starting junior infants in the school

Tell Me About It: My son is happy at the school but my little girl will have no peers of her own

PROBLEM: My daughter is due to start primary school this coming September. However, I have reservations as she will be the only one starting in junior infants. It is an excellent two-teacher small rural school and her brother will be in the same room, but in first class. However, no junior infants enrolled this year so my daughter would have no peers of her own age or even close to her age to play with in either junior or senior infants.

My son is doing really well at this school and I fear that if I take him out of the school, he may not settle well or get the attention he is receiving elsewhere. However, I really do not want my daughter to start school on her own. I am torn as to what the best thing is to do for both kids.

Any advice or guidance would be really appreciated.

ADVICE: You already have experience that this is a very good school and your son is happy and thriving, and it sounds as if the teachers have lots of experience of working with different age groups.

While it is understandable to worry, there is a view that the imposed system of all children doing the same thing at the same age should not be the only option for education. It might feel very natural for your little girl to mix with different ages and genders and it is even possible that she could study what she likes in junior infants at her own pace and interest. There is also the probability that the teacher will give her lots of individual time and this can be very good for both her learning and self-development.

As parents who are conscious that their daughter might feel left out, you could ask the teachers to encourage the older children to include her and this could result in a close knit group of kids. The little one will integrate with the older kids and thus learn a lot about real relationships from the range of experience of the others.

It may be that birthday parties will be a little sparse for a couple of years but, as time moves on, you can enrol your daughter in lots of external activities and sports, and she will develop friends outside of school; this will aid her confidence and will be of help to her going to secondary school.

Of course you are concerned but at the moment both your children are healthy and well, and the time for concern is if, and when, something is brought to your attention.

If you decide to move both children to a school several miles away, they would be strangers to the children in their direct neighbourhood plus your son might be full of grief and loss for his school friends.

If you overworry, or become hyper alert to problems, your children will also become anxious and fearful

That you are an involved and caring parent is obvious so there is no doubt that you will be on the alert if your children are unhappy or upset. However, if you overworry, or become hyper alert to problems, your children will also become anxious and fearful.

Children thrive when they have a parent who is grounded and happy themselves so perhaps this is what you could focus on now. Have faith in yourself that you will see if a problem arises and that you will tackle it when it happens. Anticipating problems can drain and exhaust you and does not equip you to make better decisions when they are needed.

Maybe you could join activities in your local community and show your daughter the pathway to making friends for the future. Indeed, you could volunteer at the school and have a close knowledge of its workings and ways. Knowing other parents and people locally will offer you both support and an early warning system if anything is wrong.

If you can lessen your worries and develop more fun and connection in your life, then you will role model these excellent skills for your daughter and she will thrive in whatever situation she finds herself.