Summer is officially over and today marks the first day back to school for children everywhere. Well, perhaps not everywhere but for most of Toronto… and certainly for The Clover School!
A new school year means a fresh start. For some that might mean a new classroom, a new teacher, or even a new school. And while this can be an exciting time of year for some, it can also be stressful for others. New beginnings and life changes bring with them a sense of the unknown, and that can be a challenge that leaves some children feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
In this article, we’re going to share a few things that you can do with your own children to help them face new beginnings with confidence and a positive attitude about what’s to come.
But before we get started it’s important that we preface this by saying that you know your child best. Every child is different and what works for some may not work for others. Many of our recommendations are focused on communicating what to expect but more sensitive children may find that having too much information about what to expect actually increases anticipation rather than diffusing nervous feelings.
So please read this with your child, and their particular emotional needs, in mind. And always trust your intuition.
Talk to Them
Like anything in life, communication is key. As human beings, some of our most fundamental needs are to be heard, to be acknowledged, and to be understood. There is nothing worse than struggling with something and not having anyone to talk to because when we turn to others in tough times just being heard can have a reparative and healing effect.
Whether you think your child may be carrying the weight of one of life’s many transitions or new beginnings or not, regularly touching base is key. As a parent, the most valuable gift you can give your child is an open line of communication.
Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean forcing them to talk about certain things. The key to opening up a dialogue with your kids is simply making yourself available. When life is in flux for our own families, we find little ways to give each of our children at least fifteen minutes of undivided attention every day. That means no distractions, no devices, just us and our kids.
Sometimes that’s making them breakfast in the morning or sitting outside with them when we get home from work. The important thing isn’t when you do it or what the context is, it’s the time and attention you give them, without judgment, to just be available for whatever conversation they need to have.
The Clover School practices a mindfulness curriculum that includes meditation, intention setting, and journaling. Mantras are a powerful mindfulness tool that we use in the classroom to help children keep the intentions they have set for themselves in mind throughout the day.
Children pick a particular saying or phrase and repeat it to themselves either silently or out loud in combination with deep, intentional breathing. They use their mantras when they need to reset their perspective, feel more grounded, diffuse anger or anxious feelings, or channel a sense of calm.
Intention setting and mantras are powerful because they can remind a child of their own power, revive their confidence, and give them a sense of control over a situation. They help children deal with nervous energy and give them the opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive in emotionally charged situations.
If your child is feeling uncertain about a new school or a new classroom help them write and practice their own mantras. Some mantras we have seen from children in our own schools include, “I am strong,” “I can do this,” and “I can be calm even when I am scared.”
Try this with your own children and we think you will be surprised by the golden nuggets of wisdom they come up with.
Channel The Power of Vision
Vision can be a powerful tool in times of stress and overwhelm because it involves managing expectations and developing a sense of mental and emotional preparation for what’s to come. Vision work can help some nervous kids develop a sense of confidence when going into new and unknown situations but vision work may not be appropriate for certain ages and stages.
You could try a vision board, guided meditation, or journaling. For younger kids, sometimes vision work is having a conversation and helping them to imagine what tomorrow will bring.
The format of vision work doesn’t matter as much as the content of that work.
Let’s say your child’s child’s new beginning is going to school for the first time or to a new school. What’s important is getting your child to imagine their first day of school. Help them focus on how that morning is going to go. Walk them through each step of their routine in detail. Who’s going to wake them up, what will their self-care and dressing routine be like, what will they have for breakfast, and what do they need to do before they leave the house for the day. Then help them imagine packing their bags, getting in the car, the drive to school, and so on.
As you do this, help them to stay in touch with not just what they see but what they feel, the emotions they expect to have throughout the morning. Ask them to imagine how they will handle difficult emotions. Who they will ask for help, where they will go if they need a break or a bit of space.
Vision work is great for some kids because knowing what to expect can diffuse fear of the unknown. But again, since not all children are the same and you are the expert when it comes to your child, use your judgment when deciding what will help them best.
The only thing that is certain in life is that at some point we will all face change and new beginnings. We hope that these suggestions for helping your child learn to embrace change have provided some value or insight to you.
If you have your own tips and tricks for helping kids cope with transitions and change, we would love to hear them!
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