It’s that time again. New binders, fresh supplies, new clothes- it’s time to head back to school. For many kids, it’s a time of great anticipation and excitement. For others, school can feel like a torture chamber. School should be a safe haven for kids to thrive, both academically and socially. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for many kids.
So, how do you help your kids prepare for a new school year? By helping them be as mentally prepared as they are physically prepared. Talk to them. The more information kids have about what to expect, how to deal with new or uncomfortable situations, etc. the more at ease they will be when they encounter them. And, they will.
Learning how to introduce yourself to new people and make new friends is an art form all its own. As a parent, you can’t know every situation that will come up, but you can give your kids some scenarios and talk about the “what ifs” that might come along.
Practice some role playing. Give some examples. Start a conversation. The sooner the better because it gives children a chance to process the information, practice it and process it some more.
As parents, we all want our children to be happy and well adjusted, kind and considerate members of society. How do we teach them empathy and caring and having value and all those qualities we know are so important? We show them. We show them through our actions, our words and our deeds. We ask them questions, we show them respect and we listen.
As a martial arts instructor who came up through the “school of hard knocks”, I am very familiar with the drill instructor style of teaching. It didn’t work for me as a student, and it doesn’t work for me as an instructor. Needless to say, it didn’t work for me as a parent, either.
Ever heard the saying, “More is caught than taught?” It’s true. People may not remember what you said or what you did, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel. I believe kids are watching us adults, teachers, parents, etc. and replicating more of what they see than what they hear.
Learning any skill takes time and there is no shortcut for experience. Taking the time to talk with your kids, answer their questions, listen to them while they work things out is an ongoing, daily practice. But, practice does pay off. When kids know that what they feel and what they have to say matters, then they know that they matter.
Value, empathy, confidence, moral compass, integrity, honor- these are slow brewing characteristics that take time and nurturing. But, nobody becomes an adult in a day, either. Things that matter take time. Slow and steady really does win the race after all.
Filling your child’s mental tool box and emotional bank account with strong character and a backpack full of self- worth can be the most important back to school supplies they own.
Practice with your Kids:
- Practice speaking up and using your voice. Look in the mirror and say “NO!” and “Leave me alone!” Talk to them about when it’s okay to say no to an adult.
- Talk about good touch, bad touch and secret touch.
- Have them practice walking with their back straight, chin up and eyes forward. Walk “as if” they were a confident, strong, leader.
- Practice critical thinking skills by doing small exercises. Have kids pay for items in the store while you stand back and listen. Have them place an order when you go for ice cream.
- Practice the “what if” game. Ask your kids what they would do in a certain situation. For instance, they are waiting for you to pick them up from school and someone shows up and says they are there on your behalf. Should they go with them or not? Or, they are at a friend’s house and someone offers them a cigarette. Or, their friends are online and talking bad about a classmate and want you to join in. What do you do? How do you handle it?
- Teach them to trust their gut. When something doesn’t feel right, ask them what they are feeling and help them explore it. Help them practice saying no to things that make them uncomfortable, such as hugs, peer pressure, or other age appropriate topics.
- Practice what to do if your child sees someone else being bullied. What should they do?
For a list of resources on the subject, go to www.stopbullying.gov.
- Look for changes in your child’s habits and demeanor. Sudden differences are red flags, such as a change in mood, change in sleep patterns, loss of appetite, sudden weight changes, changes in friends/social life, etc.
- Keep an ongoing dialogue about who they hang out with, what’s going on at school, etc.
- Ask questions and listen to your child’s responses without interrupting, judging, or reacting negatively. If they feel you are disappointed in them, or they might be in trouble, they are likely to shut down and not tell you what is going on in their lives. It’s much harder to know what’s going on if they stop talking to you.
- Keep an eye on their electronic and social media usage. Cyber bullying and victimization of minors is rampant on the internet. It is a must to keep tabs on their content for their safety.
- For a list of resources for parents, for teachers and for students, check out the following links: