Over 60,000 Danish children started a whole new chapter in their lives in August. They have gone from being a kindergarten child to a pupil. But the first years of primary school are not always a bed of roses. It is an overwhelming time for the child, who has to settle into a new social environment and get used to new expectations. Here's some concrete advice on how parents can support their child through the first years of school and how to deal with the most common issues.

We asked family counsellor Lola Jensen and child researcher Stig Broström for advice.

Your child is upset and has had a bad day: what to do

At first, expect your child to be much more tired than usual. There are a lot of new impressions for your child to digest when he or she comes home from school. It is therefore important that parents don't bombard them with questions about how their day went. It's fine to show interest in what your child has done during the day, but let your child come and tell you when he or she feels like it. Make it clear to your child that you want to hear about the school, but that there is also room to relax and do something else when you get home from school and after-school activities. If your child is feeling overwhelmed by all the new things, it's a good idea to cut down on after-school activities and play dates for a while. The desire and enjoyment will return once school life has become a routine.

What to do if your child is upset after school

If your child is upset after school, the first thing parents should do is comfort their child and ask what is wrong, but without being aggressive with the questions. Stig Broström points out that many children in the lower grades cannot yet explain the problem precisely. So it's a good idea to say "Your older brother was a bit upset at first too, but he loves going to school now" or something similar. You can also draw on your own experience. If it is an ongoing problem, you need to assess whether it is time to involve the class teacher in the issue.

Your child does not have close relationships in class and is not part of the community

It's never fun to feel like your child has no friends or sense of community. But here, according to Lola Jensen, the first thing to consider is whether the child really has a problem, or whether as parents you perceive it as a problem. Many children thrive on being allowed to observe the community for a while. Maybe they are "slow starters" and that's okay. They take things at their own pace, and may form fewer but deeper friendships later in school.

If your child actually says he or she is always outside and always gets a no from the other children, it may be an idea to support your child in setting up play dates. It's also a good idea to involve the class teacher in his or her concerns, so there can be more focus on involving everyone in activities.

Finding your place in class

In a school class, there is a kind of hierarchy among the children. This can make it difficult for some children to find their place among the other children. It can help to have the children draw a picture of the class. That way you can get a sense of who is in charge in the class. Maybe the child should try to play with some other children than those who are in charge?

  • First find out if your child is really outside
  • Involve the class teacher in your concerns
  • Support your child to form playgroups and, if appropriate, support your child to play with other children in the class

Your child is not interested in the subject and finds it hard to keep up

Your child may not be interested in letters and maths. Maybe your child finds it boring and can't keep up. If this happens in kindergarten, parents can start by taking it easy. Stig Broström suggests trying to get your child interested in letters in their free time. This can be through games, or looking at signs when going for a walk.

However, it is also a good idea to practice sitting still. Lola Jensen suggests practising sitting still at home in a positive way. For example, you can make bead boards or draw. In this way, it can become a positive experience for the child.

Remember to let your child have their own experience of school

At first, expect your child to be much more tired than usual. There are many new impressions that your child has to digest when he or she comes home from school. It is therefore important that parents don't bombard them with questions about how their day went. It's fine to show interest in what your child has done during the day, but let your child come and tell you when he or she feels like it. Make it clear to your child that you want to hear about the school, but that there is also room to relax and do something else when you get home from school and after-school activities. Most children spend their first year of school learning the new social rules of school. At school, there are much higher demands on the child's self-reliance and ability to understand a collective message. If your child is feeling overwhelmed by all the new things, it's a good idea to cut down on extracurricular activities and play dates for a while. The desire and enthusiasm to do so should return once school life has become routine.