It's okay if your kid didn't get anything at prizegiving

It’s that time of year again — school prizegiving time. This means sitting through a few hours of name-calling and certificate-awarding and awkward clapping that starts off enthusiastic but, by two hours in, devolves to half-hearted knee-patting. In my kids’ primary school, they do this thing called “three specials”, where everyone claps only three times — one, two, three — and then they move on. I used to think this was naff. Now I think it’s genius.

Today was one of my kids’ prizegivings, but I couldn’t go as I had a meeting at the other kid’s school. But a friend texted me every so often when one of our kids’ mutual friends got a prize, so I like to think I helped her stay awake while she waited for her own child’s name to be called. A few names came up over and over — some of the high achievers who were recognised for lots of areas they excel in. Some were surprises; kids who may have a tougher time but worked hard and were acknowledged for it.

Then there were the kids who clapped and cheered for their classmates, but didn’t receive anything themselves. There are a lot of these kids, all around NZ. Maybe your child is one of them. Maybe you’ve got one high achiever who gets lots of prizes, and one child who doesn’t receive anything at those ceremonies and needs to sit there while their sibling gets the accolades.

Your child might feel left out, or they might wonder what they’ve done wrong, or whether there’s something wrong with them. They might come home in tears, or they might try to shrug it off and act like it’s not a big deal. But deep down, they may be feeling pretty upset.

My kid didn’t get anything at prizegiving this year. “I’m the only one of my friends who didn’t get something,” they told me when they got home. They were a bit sad, and we talked about it. About how not everyone gets something at prizegiving. About how some of the kids just do a great job in everything and get a lot of awards, and some kids just do their best and that’s okay, too. We talked about the other things we could celebrate, like kindness and a good sense of humour and creativity and always giving things a go even if they’re hard. Maybe they’ll get something at prizegiving next year, we agreed. Maybe not.

Because although we live in a society where high achievers are praised, there are a lot of people who go through life never getting prizes. I’d say the majority of us fall into that category. We can be proud of the people we know who do get the awards, and at the same time, we can also be proud of ourselves for doing the things we do to keep on keeping on. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing of all.

Here’s what I’m giving myself a prize for this year: Adulting. Doing the hard things. Not losing my temper when I really, really wanted to. Giving lots of hugs. Trying to be there for my kids and letting them be themselves, even when they made choices that weren’t what I’d have done.

As for my kids, I’m giving them prizes, too. There aren’t any trophies or certificates, but there are hugs and hanging out and playing games together. Time spent in appreciation of one another is its own prize, and that’s the currency I’m dealing in right now.

To all the kids who got the prizes this year: Well done. To all the kids who didn’t get the prizes this year: Well done. We’ve all made it through another school year. Let’s go celebrate.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

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