It is back to school time. Often this time of year triggers stress, frustrations, and worries that we haven’t seen in kids all summer long. With the demands of homework, new teachers, new expectations, learning new information, seeing old friends (and at times not so friendly kids), there are so many stressors children encounter this time of year. However, it is during these transitions that children learn how to manage new situations they encounter, setting up the coping patterns they will use most likely for the rest of their lives. So it is imperative as a parent to help your child learn how to transition through uncertain situations that may be mixed with fear, worry, excitement, and anticipation (among other feelings). This article offers a simple but effective strategy to help your child create healthy ways to cope with new situations, encouraging resilience and resourcefulness.
Life is filled with obstacles and as you become an adult you often encounter situations that throw you off balance. How you manage these adversities are often formed when you were a child and unconsciously you are reacting from the same pattern you did as a child when a new situation arises or when things become overwhelming. If you didn’t have healthy adults in your life modeling how to manage change you may have picked up some unproductive ways cope. Here’s the good thing, you always have an opportunity to change and grow by creating new healthy strategies to meet your needs. In addition, you can teach your children new healthy ways of responding to changes.
Here’s a simple, but effective strategy to help you child when they encounter new challenges. Have your child take out a big piece of paper. On that paper have them draw all the things that they are worried or fearful about. For a younger child it may be a fear that the new teacher may be mean, for a middle school child it may be the fear of finding their classes, for a teenager it could be meeting new friends. Here’s the important part, do not judge or minimize what their worries are. If you make judgmental comments such as, “oh that’s not true”, you do not validate your child’s feelings. When you allow them to embrace their feelings they are more likely to move through the feelings, allowing an opportunity to create new thoughts and feelings around the circumstances. Allow your child to express all their worries and validate their feelings. Then, after you have heard them and allowed them an opportunity for self-expression, ask them to create all the things they could do to overcome the fears, worries and challenges. So if you child draws a picture of a mean kid in school doing something hurtful ask them to create what they could do instead. Allow them the opportunity to get really creative, again it’s not about what you think they should do, but instead allowing them to create their own solutions, however “out there” or silly it may seem. This allows for divergent thinking, essential in developing resilience and creating life long skills for success.