Going back to school is traditionally a time when our children are excited about wearing their new outfits, new shoes, and rocking their new bookbags. They are overly excited about seeing their old friends from last year, meeting new friends, and meeting their new teacher. Everything about the first day of school screams “FRESH & NEW”!! As parents this is the time of the year where we beam with pride at how much our babies have grown. Yet, we still have a moment of sadness because our kids are getting older and they are no longer those cute little babies they were the year before. On the first day of school we pose our kids in the front yard with their cute little outfits on and take their “obligatory first day of school” picture. Some of y’all are probably exhaling a deep sigh of relief because you know this is your kid’s last year of high school and you are beyond ready for her to go…#nojudgementzone.
Whatever your feelings are about the first day of school or whatever traditions your family has been accustomed to, this school year will be different. This school year our kids will be starting school in their pajamas and/or leggings. Instead of pretty pink notebooks and unicorn bookbags they will have Chromebooks and WIFI’s. From a kindergartner to a senior in high school this will be a lot to understand and surely a lot to process. For me it is hard to process so I can only imagine what a child may think about all of this.
During our last “Sundae Sunday”, Khristian and I talked about how her upcoming school year will possibly look. At the time we didn’t know who her teacher would be; therefore she was still in “summer mode” and didn’t really give me any concrete thoughts about returning back to school. She was pretty nonchalant about it all until her teacher assignment letter came. When the teacher assignment letter came in the mail it became real to her. She ran up to her room and grabbed her yearbook from the past school year to look up her new teacher. She was ecstatic about meeting her new teacher until she remembered that she wouldn’t physically meet her until mid October. At that time I knew by the look on her face we needed to have an impromptu “Sundae Sunday”.
She and I grabbed some leftover Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and discussed her feelings about not physically seeing her friends and meeting her new teacher for approximately 9 weeks into the school year. I listened to her as she processed her thoughts about things being different for her this school year. “Sundae Sunday” is a time where I do more listening rather than talking. She stated that she was excited about going back to school and that she was excited about eventually meeting her new teacher. She mentioned that she did not have any major thoughts about not seeing her friends or meeting new friends for the next 9 weeks. She stated that although she misses school; she is okay with starting back to school virtually. We have enrolled her in a remote learning support program. The program will allow her to maintain her schedule and routine as well as provide her the social interaction that she needs for her overall wellbeing. Sometimes you have you have to do what works for you and your child. Overall, I would say that she appears to be pretty optimistic about the upcoming school year.
Now, trust me I understand that all children are not going to handle this conversation like Khristian. There are some children who are currently experiencing major anxiety behind not starting school within the next few weeks. There are some children who are aware of their personal circumstances and because of that it makes them very uneasy about not returning back to school. There are some children who thrive off having peer social interaction and not being able to go to school can lead to some form of depression for them.
Now parents as you are having this conversation, make sure you are doing more listening than talking. Listening is always the key!! I know that we can be quick to offer a solution to our children’s problems but often times our own anxieties can fuel our children’s anxieties.
So as you are having the back to school conversation with your child, I would encourage you to do the following things:
- Remain calm and try not to project your anxieties or fears onto your child.
- Review their school schedule and their new routine prior to the 1st day of school.
- Try to maintain as much normalcy as you can during this time. Take the obligatory 1st day of school picture!! Wake them up just as excited as you were if they were heading to the bus stop on the 1st day of school.
- Encourage them to communicate with their peers during this time.
- Always make yourself available if your child needs to talk. Remember less talking and more listening.
- Show yourself grace. This is new for everyone, including you. Things are different for everyone and its okay not to have all of the answers.
- If your child is not handling the changes very well, I would encourage you to seek out professional assistance.
So as we gear up for the 2020-2021 school year, one thing we can bet on is ourselves. We can bet that we will do whatever we need to do to make sure that our children will have their BEST school year yet!! Despite the changes that may come our way we will always show up for our children and be our best selves in spite of it all. But in the meantime, show yourself some grace mama!! WE GOT THIS!!!!!!