Heading back to school can be an anxious and stressful time for kids — and for parents, too! New schedules, new notebooks, new teachers and classmates add up to a lot of excitement and oftentimes, anxiety. All that change can get everyone in the family into a tizzy. One important element to consider is the way in which a parent or caregiver can intentionally help children face the upcoming school year, especially if they are feeling nervous about school. Here are a few proactive tips to help smooth the transition this fall:
My early years of parenting seemed to be a cascade of stress that built throughout the day, as I tried desperately to deal with the out-of-control behavior of my youngsters: sibling conflict, messes everywhere, arguing, not listening, and so on. Unfortunately I was often using my own out-of-control behavior to try to manage theirs. By the end of the day, feelings of discouragement and resentment floated in a sea of stress chemicals in my brain.
I gradually accepted that I couldn’t eliminate the craziness. But as I learned to focus on my long-term goal of raising “world-changers” instead of managing the immediate crisis, it created a whole different response (and brain chemistry) from me that was often rather satisfying.
So how can parents trade in that parenting stress for a nice “satisfaction buzz”?
It was every parent’s nightmare – over two hours at the allergist’s office with three young children. The kids and I all took turns alternately getting poked for blood draws, scratched all over our backs and arms for allergy testing, and puffing to check breath levels for asthma. The results? A bountiful diagnosis of asthma and allergies for everyone, with many allergies rated 4+ on the 0-4 scale.
The markers and paper I had brought along lost their appeal about 20 minutes into the two hour process, as my stress level rose to about a 6 on the 0-4 scale!
To the discouraged Mom in the third row,
As I share a story from my own parenting journey, our eyes meet and I sense a sadness inside of you. You are here alone. Are you a single parent? Are you married but struggling to get on the same page with your spouse? I’m not sure, but whatever the reason for your solitude, you seem to be bearing a lot of weight on those shoulders.
Perhaps you feel like a sponge, soaking up all the tension in your family. And there’s plenty of tension! There’s a burdensome sense of responsibility to keep everyone happy, and it’s not working.
To the Dad in the front row at our workshop,
You are here — and, based on your eye contact and nods, you are attentive. As Lynne and I present, your gaze is fixed. You write notes and take the time to write down the kind of parent you want to be at the end of each section. You want to get this parenting thing right. I watch you as we present and make some intuitive guesses informed by twenty years of speaking to moms and dads like you.
Your kids are young. You and your spouse want to be together in this parent journey, but there is tension. I see you occasionally exchange knowing glances – like you’ve been found out together. I sense discouragement not far around the corner, so I try to keep an encouraging tone and relate my own struggles so you know I understand you. I very much want you to know — you are not alone! You and your wife are here together, wanting to be on the same page. Wanting to encourage each other. Not knowing how.
Dad in the front row, I know you. I was you and I am you. I can see in the glances and eye contact with me and with your wife that you two really long to embody God’s grace with each other, for each other, and for your kids. I’m guessing by your responses to stories of Lynne’s and my struggles that you’ve had your share too. Maybe even more than your share. I can’t help but wonder if you’re feeling burdened and overwhelmed. Believe me, I know about that.
In a coaching session, Karen shared that their family’s weekly schedule seemed to take them captive every Sunday night. Lilly, their third-grader, unofficially declared it “Moan and groan about Monday morning” time. The whole family would get drawn into her dramatic, despairing proclamations about the boredom and frustration that awaited her the next day. Parental injunctions to shape up that attitude exacerbated the problem because Lilly felt invalidated and became more determined to make her point. With everyone else also feeling a milder version of the pre-Monday blues, the scent of crankiness wafted throughout their home.
Christmas is here. It seems only yesterday that it was the start of school… Thanksgiving even… and now the celebration of Jesus’ birth is upon us. What’s a busy parent to do to make sure the kiddos are still feeling safe, loved, capable, and responsible amidst all the hustle and bustle? Here are a few ideas from Christmas past…
“I’m so stupid, I’m SO STUPID!” Most parents at some point are faced with a discouraged, self-condemning child. That’s painful to hear.
Our anxiety often drives us to try to talk a child out of their opinion, in an effort to soothe everyone’s distressed feelings. “You are not, you’re plenty smart!” The child, now feeling invalidated in their discouragement, often makes it their primary goal to enlighten their oblivious parent – “I am too! Nobody else makes a mistake like that. All the kids think I’m dumb!” and the conversation disintegrates into irrational, extreme thinking.
So what’s a truly helpful response when your child hurls condemnation at him or herself? We’ll tackle this question with a real life example from our 20-something daughter.
Broken bones, scary surgeries, or moving to a new school — all these things can be traumatic experiences for kids to handle. How can parents best help their kids survive and even learn from difficult situations? To answer this question, Chad Hayenga sat down with CF co-founder Lynne Jackson.
(If you cannot see the video, click here to watch it on YouTube or click here to download the transcript.)
The “Whole-Brain” Perspective
According to Lynne, it really helps kids to process difficult circumstances using their whole brain. Here is an overview of the breakdown she gives in the video of how to help kids use all three major areas of their brain:
- Left brain: language and logic. Explain to your child the facts of what’s going on – how to understand exactly what happened in the past, and/or what to anticipate in the future.
- Right brain: emotions. Once you’ve talked about the facts, help your child give words to the feelings that they’re feeling about the situation.
- Frontal lobe: planning. Facilitate your child in making a plan for what to do when they feel those feelings and encounter whatever is ahead.
From this launching point of facts, feelings, plan, you can use whatever difficulties your child is facing to help build in them an identity as one who perseveres, who overcomes tough stuff. In the words of one precocious little girl whose parents Lynne coached, “Dad, I love you. You helped me persevere with a cast on!”
For help implementing these principles with your family, check out our coaching options!
Fear is everywhere. I have it. My kids have it. We’re all afraid of something.
When the fear is persistent it becomes anxiety. Whether or not the anxiety is rational, when my kids are anxious and hurting, I tend to be anxious and hurting too. Of all the emotions that can paralyze, anxiety tops the list. I’ve found that my anxiety rarely if ever does anything to help my child.
So now what? This is a deep subject, but here’s one story about how we overcame anxiety with our daughter.