Thousands of kids started school across the country a few months ago and now the novelty has worn off, the true emotions roll on in. And not just for young kids, every child faces a time of transition as they commence a new school year, it comes with its challenges. Whether they are starting in preschool, a new school or looking down the barrel of the HSC, there are things we can do as parents to help our children thrive in the time of change.
Mum knows best.
Most of the time, but certainly when it comes to knowing our children. What works for your friend’s daughter may not suit yours. What your husband remembers from his childhood, may not be the best advice for your son. Every child is different and their needs will vary accordingly. This is where working together with the teacher/s can be a good idea. Let them in on a little of the treasure trove of knowledge you have on your child, help them get a head start on how they flourish. Tap into your parental instincts, you are the world expert on your child.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Kids love preparation almost as much as boundaries. A sense of predictability (without being weird!), is important when it comes to handling change. Talk through the details of what the new norms will look like. Talk through any anxiety they might have about the changes. Role play or use imaginary hindsight – rather than wondering how to do something, imagine that it’s already done it….and triumphed! Ask your child to visualise themselves in the ‘finished’ place and get them to explain how they got there. Approaching a problem that’s already been solved makes things look a whole lot different! Help them have control over what’s next.
Keep calm and carry on.
Tenacity and perseverance are key components in strength of character. Courage to continue on when you’d rather not, is a value worth intentionally fostering and also celebrating. By knowing and teaching that the only constant in life is change, we can help our children embrace, rather than simply tolerate, the inevitability of life transitions. Cultivate self-compassion in your children, so that they can see their humanity and love themselves.
Uncover the Why
Knowing and understanding the why often makes the ‘how’ a whole lot easier. By unpacking and highlighting the reasons the change is necessary will give sense and meaning to the context. A deeper purpose is at play here, spend time discerning the basis for change.
Give them control
Because they have little control over the changes they’re experiencing, give them back some control over their lives. Simple things like packing their own bag for the littlies or full reign over scheduling for the older ones. Whatever is appropriate for your family, find ways for your kids to regain some ownership and sense of authority over their lives. Giving choices is another great way to enable this.
Let them feel
This one might be last on the list but it’s No. 1 in rank. Allowing ALL feelings is critical here. Whatever you do don’t tell your child he ‘should be excited, not sad’. It’s not only futile, it negates his natural emotion sending the message that he shouldn’t bother with his emotions. And whatever, whatever you do, don’t tell them ‘not to worry’. Like telling someone not to think about a blue camel for five minutes, this is a useless phrase and studies show it makes people worry even more! Feelings exist in their own right and don’t need justification, unlike thoughts and behaviours. Acknowledge all feelings, limit actions. They’ll love you for it.
Help your kids focus on less on the old ways and more on the new doors. Teach them that great things never came from comfort zones and show them the way into exciting new opportunities, growing their hearts and minds along the way.