This September is going to be a blast—right?
Lots of us are heading back to school—in-person—and hoping to leave online classes behind for good. (What—you didn’t get enough Zoom to last a lifetime?) Or perhaps your family has taken a different approach and embraced more at-home learning. Perhaps, like so many of us, the last couple of years have meant constant flux, and it looks like things are just getting settled.
The start of September means transition, and we’re all facing unique transitions this year. It doesn’t take looking too far to see that we're not alone. Every September comes with its own transitional challenges, and while this year may be a particularly strange—or even difficult—example for many of us, how we handle transitions can have a huge impact on how our children perceive and manage their own ever-changing worlds.
How can we help our kids face this new year with confidence? Can we get them excited? Or how do we help them manage anxiety or disappointed expectations? Perhaps, if we’re honest, they’re not the only ones experiencing some...apprehension.
List and Listen
Anxiety in the face of a transition can exacerbated when so many factors converge that it becomes difficult to get a handle on any single one of them. Moreover, several changes all at once can have a compounding effect as one factor affects another. As an example, perhaps a close friend at school has transitioned away from in-person learning, and there are changes to one parent’s work schedule, leaving a child missing familiar components of their support system, both at home and at school. Separate issues can seem a lot bigger when they are combined.
Start analyzing all the different ways that this year is different, unfamiliar, or new for your child. Begin to make a mental list of at least five to fifteen factors; try your best to step into your child’s perspective and personality. What things seem different to them?
Talk to your child about how they are feeling regarding the upcoming school year. This will not only help you to understand how best to support them, but it helps them recognize their own fears and uncertainties.
Be as specific as possible to help them connect to what you are asking. Try, "Do you wish there were more online classes this year, or are you glad to be going back in person full-time?” Helping them to identify where they are feeling fear can help them face those fears in specific, practical ways. And helping them realize where they feel just fine can help them put those areas out of mind.
Teach to Embrace the Unknown
Remind your child that not every unknown about the upcoming year needs to be eradicated beforehand. After all, there are things that you’re uncertain about, too! Model for your children what it means to find the facts you can and make peace with the rest. The less you fret, the less your children will, too.
Build Them Up Based on What You Know
If you know your kid is a rockstar, tell them! Assure your children based on what you know they can do. Remind them what you’ve done and can do is a family. Tell them the reasons you’ve never doubted them for a second, and be specific in your affirmations! Remind them of how they’ve overcome obstacles in the past, and how you’ve tackled things together. They are not alone, and this new school year is something that entire family will face.
And Don’t Fret, Yourself
As for us adults, we’ve got to be prepared to embrace what’s changed, too. Perhaps your child doesn’t seem to feel any fear at all. Perhaps they are just eager to get back in class with their friends. Perhaps their attitudes toward school have changed. It’s true that September 2019 is now part of a different era. We are all new, our children have grown, schools have changed, and life is different. The whole world is two years older.
Make sure that your child knows that you accept them as they are now. You still treasure them the same, but you are not looking for the version of them from two years ago. Coating your communication with acceptance will help your child embrace the present rather than feel insecure about the past. They will need your strength if things turn out not to be what they expected, especially if they need to work up towards their own expectations of themselves again.
That’s How We Teach
We share these principles because they underpin the philosophy, we employ in working with our students. We transition with students constantly: into a new class, up to a new grade level, in relation to a new teacher relationship or a new learning need. And one particular idea guides our approach in every case: demonstrating acceptance for where a child is at, and embracing with enthusiasm where that child can go.
We pride ourselves in advocating that math is accessible for all. We pay careful attention to each student’s roadblocks and talents and laying out accessible steps toward progress, encouraging them along the way.
Perhaps the whole world needs a bit of an accepting, enthusiastic embrace.
List up, world. We’re listening.