By Darlene Gavron Stevens, LCPC
As I attended my son’s last high school readiness day, it struck me that many of us are very busy buying books, binders and backpacks. But we might neglect the emotional preparation essential for starting a new school year.
Whether your student is 5 or 25, consider discussing these emotional tools that can help them hit the campus, school, and playground running:
Flexibility – Your child might not get the teacher, class, or course schedule they wanted. Friends from last year are suddenly snubbing them. The fashion code went from yoga pants to floral jumpsuits and no one told you. The roommates weren’t as good of a fit as expected, making the dorm room feel increasingly small. The sooner children, teens and 20-somethings learn how to be flexible, the more resilient they will be as emerging young adults.
Optimism – It’s easy for students to get locked into negative thinking if they had a poor school experience in the past. Depending on age, it could be devastating if they were bullied or received poor grades. Some away college students need to come home and study online or take community courses before returning to university life again. Optimism helps teach children to put the past where it belongs, and use the present to effect change.
Individuality – Especially in highly competitive school districts, students can be so busy comparing themselves to others that they lose sight of the wonderful, unique traits that make them shine. I often use the analogy of a torch: We each have our own torch and it’s our responsibility to take care of that unique flame. That quirky trait might become your trademark someday.
Anticipation – Excitement can be contagious. If your child is dreading school and having a hard time saying goodbye to summer, be a role model for expecting good outcomes this school year. K-3rd graders often love to play school and pretend to be the teacher. This can be used to role-play classroom situations. Even high school and college students often look forward to seeing their favorite teachers or professors. Emphasize this over the usual, automatic thoughts about exams and exhaustion. Encourage children to visualize a successful school year, and ask them what that would look like. Line up supports (teacher meetings, tutoring, club activities) to help make that happen. Give summer a proper send-off by creating end-of-summer rituals such as a special sleepover, one on one time, or outdoor movie night.
Tenacity – Sticking to a commitment, working through a tough subject, navigating a complicated social situation; these are everyday occurrences for stressed-out students. Develop and strengthen your student’s ability to persevere, endure, and maintain focus. Encourage them to keep commitments, whether a play date or play performance.
Joy – Many of us, parents and students, lose track of finding joy in the press of assignments, carpools, and checking online grades. It might seem like graduation will take forever, but even I find myself surprised that it’s almost here for my son. Teach them not to get bogged down by the grueling details of academic life and to ask for help if needed. Keep a sense of inner joy polished and ready.
These emotional tools just might boost your student’s GPA and FPA (Friend Point Average) faster than you think.