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Playground problem !

Playground problem !           reply
02/02/2013 16:58 - Ask Mother Hen
I´d really appreciate other parents´ views on this issue. My 7 year old son (he’s in second class) has being having a lot of stress recently (e.g. tummy aches, not wanting to go to school etc.) and this has being going on for the last few weeks. The problems seem to concern above all the school playground. After talking with him we discovered that he was feeling excluded in particular from the football they play at lunchtime in the school playground. Seemly the same few boys are passing the ball to each other all the time. My son plus a few others never get a chance to touch it. I decided to observe them at play time for a few days, outside the playground to avoid drawing conclusions before speaking with the teacher and in fact could confirm what my son told me was true. The playground looked like a jungle where the strongest wins - a real paradise for potential bullies. In one area 20 /30 boys running madly (shoving, pushing) after one ball and of course my child plus some other kids never seemed to have the possibility to approach the ball, never mind kick it. I discovered later that this playground should only contain approx. 70 children but there are almost 200 children there ( a field which in winter is full of mud but this is the minimum of my concerns). I realise fully the importance of children getting exercise and letting off steam during the school day but surely there could be one or two structured activites guided by an adult for 15 mins. This option would promote social skills such as turn taking, respect etc and as a consequence help children who are not being fully included feel more confident and motivated. Currently in the media they’re speaking a lot about the devastating effects bullying (and that includes exclusion) has on children and teenagers but I haven’t heard of any concrete solutions to eliminating or at least significantly reducing it. Surely a little supervised organised play at lunch time doesn’t cost anything and in return offers children so much more in terms of confidence and happiness? I really feel investing in children’s emotional happiness and self esteem now will allow these children to become more secure teenagers and greatly reduce later bullying episodes also. I will be approaching the school about this issue in the next few days, but I was just wondering did any other parent have similar experiences and how did they resolve this problem? Thanks a lot.

re : Playground problem !           reply
07/02/2013 21:17 - Ask Mother Hen
This is very difficult for you and your son; it seems to be deeply affecting him. There are a few different angles to dealing with this. Firstly, as you´ve decided yourself, it would be worth talking to the school. It would do good to read up on their bullying policy first just to see what their promises and procedures are; what protection they see themselves putting in place, what prevention policies, if any, they have. As you´ve named, exclusion is a form of bullying; but as your son is one of a group to whom this is happening; it may be competitiveness on the football pitch rather than any deliberate exclusion or bullying that is going on. Its worth considering whether there are any issues with the same boys at other times. Boys can be very competitive and they may not have considered the effect it is having on the few boys being left out.
However, it would still be worth approaching the school with your supervision idea; surely the playground is meant to be supervised anyway? Perhaps as you suggest there could be more structured play - a teacher might be available to coach or referee, to ensure a fair game for all. Or there may be some parents wishing to volunteer one lunchtime a week, again a cost-free option. I think this is a very good idea, one worth following up on. It could be as simple as just supplying a second ball for them to play with rather than such a large number chasing the one ball!
The other angle is helping your son cope with this. Teach him deep breathing (breathe in slowly counting to 5, breath out slowly for longer, counting to 7) - this helps release tension, calm anxiety, let go of stress and anger. Teach him how to relax and get him to visualise himself as a superhero, with lots of friends and magic powers (he can choose them) - to build his inner confidence - do this at night before he goes to bed so that he feels positive and calm before going to sleep. Build stories for him around similar situations where the boy in the story was having a hard time but found ways to cope or to stand up to the other boys. Encourage him to pursue an interest he is good at, to build confidence. Martial arts can be very useful to help kids feel confident that they can cope in tough situations. Encourage his friendships; get to know his pals, have them around, help him build friendships so that he is happy socially even if they´re not the biggest/fastest/most popular etc - help him to be happy with who he is so that he´s not as affected by others.
Its so hard to see our child being hurt in any way, but your little boy knows he can talk to his parents and that counts for a lot.

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