A Note To Parents

As I am cruising Facebook, I see that the wave of “first day of school” photos are beginning to pepper my newsfeed.

This means that there are kids and parents out there faced with the inevitable anxiety that comes with the various transition and changes that a new school year brings.

When I say kids and parents, I am really talking to you parents.

As a clinician and in my personal experience, if there is something that I have seen over and over again, it is parents projecting their own anxiety/insecurity/vulnerability/ {fill in the blank} onto their children.  It’s natural, we ALL do it.

Let me tell you ( or write you…) a story:

So, my son began kindergarten about 3 months after we moved from California to Oregon.  We had moved from a community where we knew everyone and everyone knew us, to a city where we knew NO one.

I took my son to his first day of Kindy and dropped him off.  I observed him at the before school recess, wandering.   He was just aimlessly wandering, not knowing a single kid.

I cried.  I was devastated FOR HIM.

Next day, same thing.  And I cried again.

This continued for days.

When I finally got my composure enough to ask him how recess was in the morning, his response?  It’s GREAT!

You should have seen the look of shock on my face…

He didn’t care one bit that he didn’t know anyone.   His wandering was HIS choice and he was loving every moment of it.

My devastation and heartbreak was about me.  It was about my feelings of not knowing anyone, or remembering my desire for social contact and interaction at that age.  It had nothing to do with his experience…

As my son is now entering 7th grade, I find myself again feeling things FOR HIM that he doesn’t even think about!

Here’s the bottom line:

  1. Your job as a parent is to be a supportive, safe place for your child to land.  Be that for them and make sure you are listening to what it is that THEY are struggling with, or loving.
  2. Do your homework.  Know the environment that your child is in.  Attend back to school night at the school.   Really get to know about what is happening around your children and with their social circle.
  3. Know that it isn’t your job to “fix” your child’s problems.  When our children hurt, we hurt even more.  It is natural to want to intervene and fix things for your child when they are hurting, but you have to stop and really ask yourself about your involvement and the value that it will provide for your child.   Certainly if safety is concerned, that is a no-brainer.  Otherwise, take pause and see if you can encourage your child to help themselves.  Also, hold them accountable and think about the long term lessons.
  4. Get Involved.  Explore the options for social connection and exercise.  Check out with your child the clubs, sports, and interest oriented groups that are affiliated with the school.  We all know that an engaged and connected kid is a happier kid.
  5. Lastly, communicate with your child and act quickly.  Keep the dialogue open and don’t be afraid to ask the “hard” questions.  If you suspect that your child is experiencing feelings or thoughts of self harm or suicide, even at a young age, ACT.  Contact your local crisis line, State youth line,  or Suicide Prevention Lifeline.   Find a Mental Health Professional in your area and get there.

I would love your comments!  Tell me about your experiences!

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