New beginnings are exciting! They become exciting to us because they offer the promise of hope, the anticipation of change in our lives, and the prospect that our dreams will indeed come true!
Squire Rushnell, When God Winks on New Beginnings
Indeed, there is a buzzing energy reverberating in the homes of school-aged children just about this time of year. Whether your child is embarking on the wonder and magical days of kindergarten or they are a senior in high school entering the “last first day” of a year of countless “lasts,” the beginning of the school year is full of hopes and dreams as well as the to-be-expected sensations of jitters and butterflies in the belly.
With back to school in the air, familiar back-to-school tips are emerging on the Internet from myriad organizations. One of the most popular tips, of course, is the importance of establishing routines at home before the start of school by making sure there are laminated lists of bedtime and morning rituals to be checked off by the children, offering them a sense of agency and mastery. I thought I would share a few thoughts for parents to reflect upon, ways to communicate to their school-aged children not just at the beginning of this school year but throughout the year.
As a psychologist working with school-age children morning, noon, and night (yes that’s right, school is not over when you have over 250 boarding students who live at the school), there are some messages that I find myself repeating in some form or another throughout the year. I find that these messages help children of all ages. Please feel free to adapt the language in a way that is developmentally appropriate for your child.
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes! Mistakes are a natural and necessary part of learning.
- Give yourself permission to excel in some areas and struggle in others. Remember that your strengths are there to help your weaknesses out.
- Perfection is just simply overrated. Consider being unapologetically you, which is by far the best version of yourself, imperfections and all.
- Whether in class or on the athletic field, don’t compare yourself to t others; evaluate your own strengths, growth, and achievements in relation to yourself. You will grow much more this way, and achieve your goals with greater success.
- Surround yourself with school friends that support you. Like oil and water, sometimes we don’t always mix well with some school-mates. Be courteous to them, of course, but move on.
- Be gentle and kind to yourself, because you will have tough moments in class, at recess, or on dorm. When you are gentle and kind to yourself you move through tough times more smoothly. A byproduct of this approach is that you will also be more understanding and compassionate toward others.
- Ask yourself daily: Who do I want to be and how do I want to behave today? Set an intention at the beginning of each day and notice how things flow.
- Remember to take a few moments in the day to take some deep breaths. Those little pauses can nourish your body and your mind.
- Welcome anxiety when it comes to visit your belly or your head before an exam or when the teacher calls on you. Instead of running away from the sensations of anxiety, invite it like a guest and chat with it for a bit. Anxiety is a normal experience and one that can come and go if you just befriend it.
- Balance is a key ingredient to healthy living. Make sure that you have a good mix of school, work, play, and laughter in your day.
And parents, consider trying some of these practices too! These are lifelong practices that can serve us far beyond our school years.