Every year, I hear from many families about the difficulties they and their children are having adjusting to going back to school. It’s quite common for students to feel apprehensive about the increased expectations in a new grade level, to worry about friends and fitting in, to be disappointed by the teacher they have or by the lack of close friends in their classrooms. We all want to see that our children and students are happy and confident, but these fears and disappointments are not something detrimental to their emotional health. Quite the opposite!
Managing fear and disappointment is a critical life skill that can only be learned through experience.
When your child tells you that he or she is nervous about coming to school, or complains to you that things aren’t as he or she would prefer them to be, there are some reactions to avoid.
- Rather than saying, “You’re acting like a baby,” you might instead say, “It’s okay to feel disappointed. That would bother me as well.” This reaction helps children to know that negative feelings are a normal part of life, and knowing that it is normal helps anxieties and disappointments to feel less upsetting over time.
- Rather than swooping in to find a solution for your child, ask some questions to help him or her come to a solution themselves. For instance, you might ask, “Do you have any ideas about what might help the situation?” Not only does this help children to feel better right away, but it also teaches them that they have the power to make improvements in their own lives. It builds confidence, competence and resilience.
- Rather than downplaying their feelings or saying, “It’s not a big deal,” try expressing empathy with your child’s feelings. “I know this is hard for you,” acknowledges your child’s feelings without belittling them or assuming responsibility for them. The fact is that children’s emotional experiences are a big deal to them, and downplaying them sends a message that you don’t know what is really important to them.
- Rather than getting caught up in the negative emotions and making yourself scared, angry or stressed, take moment to breathe deeply and see the big picture. Children will pick up on our emotional cues and mimic them. If mom or dad is very upset, they will believe that they are supposed to be very upset as well. Instead, model a positive attitude and convey your confidence that your child will be able to handle this problem, and any others that he or she may encounter.
At Shorecrest, faculty and staff are your partners in helping your child make a smooth adjustment to the new school year.