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What are the signs of a child with self-image or self-confidence problems?
Q: We are Americans living in Japan. Our 4- and 5-year-old girls go to Japanese kindergarten. Although things seem okay, how can we be sure they aren't experiencing too much stress at school where they are different and learning the new language at the same time? What are the signs of a child with self-image or self-confidence problems? Please respond, as there is no English help of this kind here!
A: Your girls will let you know by their behaviour if they are experiencing too much stress at school. They will whine or cry, have trouble sleeping, protest going to school, say things like, “Nobody likes me at school,” etc. If they bring home some of their “work” and say things like, “See the painting I did at school,” or “My teacher said I was a good listener,” you don’t need to worry. You can also enhance their feeling of accomplishment that they are learning Japanese by asking them to teach you some of the new words they have learned.

In general, Japanese kindergartens are of excellent quality. They tend to be a little more structured and formal than American kindergartens—a pattern that many American parents seem to want for their children these days. But, in addition to the formal teaching time, the children are given long periods of free-play. During those times your daughters should have an opportunity to make friends with the other children. You will be welcomed as a visitor to your daughters’ school, so go and sit quietly and observe for a couple of mornings. After you do that several times, you will either be reassured or will become convinced that a change is in order.