It’s the start of a new school year and we want fresh starts, fresh motivation and
excitement from our kids! Rooms clean, clothes laid out, lunch stuff on the counter the night before and a beaming smile that says, “I’m going to conquer the $h*t out of this school year!” 💥💥💥
Some parents might get this from their kids and kudos to you! You have a courageous and positive kid who manages to stay in the moment and not let anticipatory anxiety and negative thinking get in the way of their visions for themselves. That’s right, I said visions for themselves because these kids actually have one. Your kids, parents, are in the minority, and the only thing you have to be aware of is when they are working TOO hard and may burn out.
Others may have kids who feel anxious, nervous, and stressed. That anxiety may come out in hideous behavior that you have to work hard to translate and respond accordingly with love and connection even tho you want to strangle them. They are acting out what they are having a hard time putting in to words, so along with moving toward someone you want to run away from, help them find the language by asking questions that may help them identify and verbalize their stress.
Or the stress may actually be voiced and communicated and you will do your best to listen and not dismiss or problem solve. If you have a thought to share about what you’re hearing, ask permission to share it. These kids just want to talk and process, so shhh.
Others may be feeling it in their heads or stomachs, they may be quiet and distant and have an overall lack of energy. You will let these kids know that you are there whenever and however they need you, and you may test the waters with a few gentle question or a story of your own about being nervous about something in your past. Kids are never too young to learn about the mind body connection and how their anxiety may be contributing to their physical pain. But be sure not to dismiss their aches and pains as not real. They are. Here is an article written by a teacher for students to work on the mind body connection. There are some very useful tools in there.
Still others may be acting “cool guy/gal” and pretending not to give two hoots about going back to school. These kids remind me of Danny (John Travolta) in Grease when he acts all cool around his friends instead of the lovely guy who was able to show his softer side to Sandy during the summer. Parents of these kids will let them know that they notice their confidence and they too have confidence they will do the best they can do, but also remind them that a lot of learning comes from making mistakes and messing up. How we learn from mistakes is what really defines us. Collect that data about what works and doesn’t work and apply, now that’s cool 😎
No matter how your kid is approaching this new school year, your job is to let them know you are there for them, and whatever emotion they are experiencing is normal and A-OK. As a reminder to you parents, there is no right or wrong emotion or way of being when starting something new, and in fact, anxiety does serve a positive purpose to some degree. Here is a great Ted Talk which teaches you to reframe anxiety to have it actually work for you. There are some fabulous ideas in here that you might even be able to share with your kid.
As we all know at this point, kids frontal cortex is not fully developed. Executive functioning for your kid can be like slogging through mud on a really hazy day. But you are here to help! Not do for, but help (This is the basis for my upcoming class on September 18th, you should come!) Help by asking questions that will help them engage their frontal cortex. We ARE their frontal cortex! We can tell them things until we are blue in the face but a very, very small percentage of what we tell them will actually imprint in their memories. Thinking for themselves, coming to their own conclusions, learning from their own mistakes, THESE are the things that will make our kids great. And don’t forget of course, leading by example. If you yell at your kid to get off their phone while you’re on yours, well…you know who you are.
Here are some questions you can ask your kid to help them continue on their journey of the developing frontal cortex. You can ask kids as young as 5 and as old as 25 these questions.
- What was one thing that happened last year that was good and you’d like to repeat? And what was one thing last year that actually didn’t work out for you that you DON’T want to repeat?
- What have you noticed about your best time of day to concentrate, morning? Afternoon? Evening? Before exercise? After?
- Where do you think you are the most productive in getting your homework done? Dining room table? Room desk? Library? (If they say bed, challenge them to an experiment. One week of homework in their bed, versus one at a desk or table. Then they can collect the data and decide.)
- How do you handle your stress when you are at school? What do you do or think?
- If you could close your eyes and imagine your school year going exactly as you had wanted, what would it look like?
- Which friend of yours is a good source of support for you? Who tends to be less available?
- Are you a good friend to people? How?
- Who has been your most important teacher so far?
- What’s your plan for getting your work done?
- What’s the likelihood you would reach out to a teacher during their office hours if you needed help?
The questions could go on and on. The best time to have conversations is in the car when they are trapped and can’t get out 🙂 You also don’t need (and shouldn’t) ask your kids these questions all at once…ease in.
Get to know your kid. Put your fear for them, their future, all the worries you have had over the years away and get to know who they are. We live such fast paced lives, I think we forget to pause and really look at them and learn who they are as individuals. They are not just extensions of ourselves, they are SO much more than that.
If you ever wonder if a therapists kid has issues or wondered what a therapist may text their kid, here you go. My own daughter expressed some concern and worry with me over text about the upcoming school year at her new high school. She was feeling unmotivated, stuck and in a rut. after she texted me a bunch of negative thoughts she was having, I asked her if I could share a few ideas that she could take or leave and when she gave me the green light I texted this:
“I’m very glad you voiced that and wrote it out. Now you need to do the reverse. Get your journal out and write out what you do want. I want to feel focused, I want to feel motivated, I want to do my best in school. You could work on switching your mindset now. Admitting that you’re stressed is the first step, but it’s too uncomfortable to just sit in that. Instead of negative, “what if’s” like what if I get lost, what if school is too hard, change it to what if I do great, what if the school is actually easier to move around than I thought! You have to work at life and your perception of it!
Her response was, “thanks mom.”
Teaching your kids that they are in charge of and able to shift their perceptions of what’s in front of them is a very valuable gift.
Good luck to you parents, I hope you have a VERY successful school year. Listen more and do for them less.