Saturday, August 25, 2018

Beginning of the School Year Joy

The beginning of the school year has many joys and challenges. As parents it is easy for us to want to solve problems for our children. However, with each new school year comes new levels of maturity and it is good for us to allow children to struggle and learn for themselves. If we stay available they will come to us if and when they need our help.

One thing that parents can do to help is to foster positive emotions. There is good reason to believe that positive emotions support social skill development and academic success. It is not hard to see the connection between a good attitude and making friends, or learning new skills.

When we promote positive emotion it does not mean that we ignore negative emotions. Children need to be able to talk with their parents about frustrations and solutions. When we promote positive emotions we are keeping children from dwelling on troubles and reminding them of the ways that God is at work in their life.

One way to do this is to encourage your child to pay attention to the good things that happen each day. When you see your child after school, make the list of happy things the first priority. Help your child to reflect on what benefit they received and to consider if someone should be thanked. Gratitude is a powerful characteristic of resilience.

After the listing of good things there can be time to talk about frustrations. You will likely note that your children will develop in their skills of problem solving as they combine their gratitude with brainstorming solutions.

Beginning of the School Year Blues

The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time. It involved new clothes, new school supplies, and possibly new friends. The very things that make this time exciting can also make it challenging. 

A change of classrooms, teachers, or schools can bring on anxiety. Even for older children a new situation can mean changes in long-time friendships, or the emergence of a previously coped with learning issue like staying organized. With all of the excitement of the new school year it can be difficult to sort through what challenges are temporary and what needs to be addressed. However, there are good things parents can do in the meantime.

1. Be open to interaction. This means that the screens (phones, tablets, computers, televisions) should be set aside. This is the time for many short, but important, conversations that help your child to think through anxiety and challenge. They need to be comforted, to brainstorm ideas, and to get feedback. Be available!

2. Identify emotions. This is not the time to assume that your child is correctly identifying emotions. For example, worry can easily morph into fear, and jealously can be mistaken for anger. You will help your child to regulate emotions if you help them to understand the appropriate emotion for the situation. Be attentive!

3. Encourage resolution. Ask your child to think about possible solutions before you start making suggestions. Give feedback, but sometimes it is best to let them try their solution first. Be supportive!

Children do not gain confidence from winning at a stress-free life or from having their problems solved for them. They gain confidence when they struggle and cope with challenges. Children develop resilience when the learn that God has given them people who are there to help.