Kindergarten interviews can be as stressful for parents as for children
Unbelievably, my four-year-old son is about to have a school interview. And I have no idea how to prepare him
Unlike Abu Dhabi, which recently banned kindergarten interviews on the grounds that they increased pressure on parents, the junior interview practice is still thriving in Hong Kong. Interviews can cause an inordinate amount of stress to parents, and it is vital that your concerns are not transmitted to your son.
When I speak to schools and kindergartens, they explain that the purpose of interviewing is to see whether children will thrive in their academic environment. Schools have different aspirations for their students. Some value creativity and look for energetic and active pupils, others might value discipline and reflective learning. You know your child, and have a good idea of the right environment for him.
Speak to friends and parents about what to expect on the day itself, and take your son to see the school before his interview. You probably won't be able to gain access to the building but you can show him the environment, and supplement his interest by looking at pictures of some of the school activities on its website. Your son will see some of what is on offer, which will also help to dispel any pre-school nerves later on.
Interview preparation is all about familiarisation, rather than trying to cram "correct" answers into your child. Your preparation should begin long before any interviews, as you develop your child's sense of his place in the world through exposure to culture, society and literature. Visit museums as often as possible and talk to your son about what he is seeing. If he expresses interest in a topic, such as dinosaurs, hit the public library and borrow books so he can enjoy reading about his new passion. Encourage him to share his thoughts and see if he can make connections between what he sees in the museums and his reading materials. A child who is engaged in learning, and is used to sharing his ideas, will be more likely to demonstrate his interest in an interview.
Often, schools will give children a group activity as part of the assessment process and teachers will observe students to see if they understand and can follow instructions and work well with others. Your son may already be part of a playgroup, and is sure to have participated in interest classes, but you don't have to go to a school. Find a group of similar aged friends and set up play sessions, during which the group can play at least one guided game or create a piece of craftwork.
There are plenty of ideas online: The Crafty Crow has some simple but effective ideas (thecraftycrow.net/preschoolers) Assemble all the equipment you need first, and give clear instructions. Take turns to lead the session so each child gets used to following instructions from people they aren't familiar with. Encourage every child to participate, and praise them when they follow instructions carefully. You are trying to develop a sense of enjoyment, and create the expectation that through participation, your son will produce something which is praiseworthy.
Interviews can be stressful for shy children. Gently encourage your son to communicate as much as possible by asking him to greet friends when you meet them, and ask family members to engage him in conversation about his day.
View the interview as a step on the path to helping your son become a confident, engaged learner. There is a school for every child, and your son will find a place which will allow him to thrive.
Jessica Ogilvy-Stuart is director of the Brandon Learning Centre