It is never too soon to begin developing children’s life skills, writes Katherine Beith, Year 6 teacher at Alleyn’s Junior School and mother of three. Here are some thoughts on how to support your child’s growing independence:
Get organised for school
Involve your children in packing their school bags and make sure they do this the night before. Help them understand the consequences of leaving their homework behind or forgetting their instrument or PE kit. Resist the temptation to deliver forgotten items to their school – they are more likely to remember for themselves the next time if they have felt the consequences of forgetting this time!
There is so much to see and do in London so take every opportunity to expand your child’s mind and their horizons. Use public transport whenever you can. Ask them to plan the route on the bus or tube and to talk you through the journey before you leave; when they make the transition to travelling without you, they will be confident using a variety of routes. Show them how the Zip or Oyster card works, and familiarise them with the TFL website and travel apps, like Citymapper, and Trainline.
When the time feels right, encourage your child to start making journeys independently. First, they can make short outings to a friend’s house, or the final few hundred metres to school, building up to completing their journey to school without you. As soon as your child is travelling alone, consider giving them a mobile phone. They only need it for communication, so something old but functional will do fine. Talk to them about how to look after themselves while travelling and who to ask for help if they need it.
Encourage financial understanding
Open a bank account for your child and talk about interest rates, tax and savings. Find out whether their school runs any business skills schemes; many run initiatives in which boys and girls are encouraged to set up and run a small business enterprise starting from scratch and with a nominal sum of money. Such activities can be great fun as well as helping to develop business and financial acumen.
Foster interest in the wider world
Help your child develop an awareness of the world. Find time to discuss news stories with them or explore publications such as The Week Junior, Aquila Magazine, First News or National Geographic Kids. When appropriate, supervise them looking through adult newspapers. The more children can be exposed to the wider world, the sooner they will be ready to join it.