Cicadas, New Shoes, and Early Bedtimes
Welp. I’m hearing the chirp of the cicadas late in the evening, and that always triggers my “summer is ending” emotions. Here in Indiana, school starts back in the next few weeks. Those late summer sounds remind me it’s time to shop for new shoes, new clothes, and to take a look at that dreaded school supply list. It’s time to begin the search for one white eraser, one pink eraser (because they are different), a pack of pencil top erasers, a 3-prong two-pocket folder in every color you can find in nature, and 38 other very specific things. Here comes school pictures, homework, fall sports practice, band concerts, school programs, case conferences, studying spelling words, and oh yeah, we still have to go to work every day, do the laundry, and feed the people in our house. Can it just be June 1st again please?
But alas, like all things, summer must come to an end. While we as parents have all these emotions rising about getting ready for the first day of school, we might forget our kids have emotions around going back to school, too. For some, it’s an exciting time to get new things, meet a new teacher, and see their friends again. For others, it can be an anxiety-provoking world of transition and the unknown. How can we help our kids as they manage whatever emotions they have surrounding the back to school jitters?
First, take a few moments to talk to your kiddo about how they are feeling about the new school year. Asking them to identify how they are viewing the upcoming transition can not only give you insight into their emotions, but also help them understand their emotions too. Ask them to think through the reason they may be feeling excited or nervous. Talk through the specific positive or negative things they are feeling, and allow them to come up with some solutions for anything they may see as a barrier to a great first day. If they struggle, guide them through some solutions and let them choose what they think will work best for them. This will give them some ownership in overcoming any fears or worries they may have.
We can also support our kids by teaching them some coping skills for tough situations or negative emotions they may experience. We obviously don’t want them to think we expect negative situations to occur, but life is full of disappointments, so teaching some coping skills can only be helpful in the grand scheme of things. Coping skills such as breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, and using self-affirmations are helpful tools for our kiddos to keep in their emotional toolboxes. If you would like some guidance in this area, please check out Paris Counseling’s podcasts, “Feeling Better with G” for preschool to elementary age kiddos, and “Breathing Better” for tweens and teens. These podcasts teach breathing techniques as well as other relaxation strategies that are helpful during anxious moments.
If your child is attending a new school, it could be a good time to meet some members of the community, and introduce yourself and your child to some new friends in the neighborhood. When attending a new school, nervous bellies can be calmed when they know they will see at least one familiar face on that first day. Schedule a tour of the school, so they know a little more about the building. If your child struggles with anxiety, give the teacher a heads up on any difficulties they may have, and what you have found calms them in those moments. If their teacher can use the same strategies that work at home, the familiarity will be beneficial.
While we cannot control outside circumstances, what we can control is our level of support and preparedness. If our kids know ahead of time what trusted adults they can go to during their school day, and know that you can’t wait to hear all about their experiences, they will feel supported in both spaces. We can have conversations beforehand about their feelings, friendships, what lies ahead, and help them feel ready for all of it. We can help them recognize their emotions, help them understand that all of their emotions are ok, and empower them to take control of their thoughts and actions.
Most importantly, our kids just need to know we love them and we are there for the amazing times as well as the not so amazing times. Gather up the hutzpah to look at that school supply list, send summer and those noisy cicadas off in whatever lovely way you choose, and make “This is going to be a great year!” your new mantra. Get in the “on your mark” position and listen to “Eye of the Tiger” as you prepare for all things school/sports/band/scouts/programs/homework/dinner/laundry/work/bedtime/piano/tennis/and whatever else you have in your life. You got this, and you’re amazing. This is going to be a great year!