School Transitions pt. 2

Growing YearsStarting back to school can bring social stress to your child. New class-mates mean new friends. Your child internalizes this and is anxious, no matter what age. We all, to some degree, like “the known” vs. “the unknown” in our lives. This is human nature. Some children have harder times with transitions to new situations than others, but everyone feels the stress. No matter how much we want to take this stress away from our child, we cannot without total isolation, which brings with it another, more harmful stress. Children need to learn how to cope with all types of stress, including social stress. We can help our child learn to cope with the stress of new social situations.

Teach basic social skills by teaching your child how to greet peers. Explain that smiles and eye contact make them seem more approachable, and friendly. A smile is worth a thousand words, and is very effective in meeting new people. This works for all ages, and is often the beginning of great friendships. Follow the smile with, “hi, my name is ____, what is your name?” Teach your child to answer questions with a sentence, not just a word. Always use eye contact, and be a good listener, letting the other person finish what they are saying before speaking. Teach children to say nice things, not bad things about others. The old and golden rule is still, “Do unto others as you would like done unto you.” If we all taught this rule to our children, school stress would go away. Since all children are not taught the rule, we must teach our children how to cope with rejection. Teach your child to read body language (after an attempted smile) to determine which child to approach. This will become second nature as your child grows older. Teach your child to ignore the negative behavior of children with no social savvy.

Encourage your child to talk about experiences and be a good listener, not a doer. This is really hard for mothers. When your child tells you someone has been ugly to them, and they appear crushed, your instinct is to lash out at the offender and draw your “little lamb” into the fold for protection. What your child needs is for you to listen, allowing and encouraging him/her to express themselves without judgment or anger. They need to be validated as being a desirable person, with positive traits. This should be your focus. Help your child work through the incident and find new solutions, for “a new and better day.” Always remember to be positive and encouraging. This also opens the door for future revelations.

Role play problems if your child has a problem with another child or adult. Use role playing to help him/her find a solution. Your child will play the role of the offender and you will be your child.

Inviting children over to play is very important, whether a group or individual. Encourage new friends, as well as old friends, to visit. Join a car pool at school if one is available, and make friends with the parents of your child’s peers.

Enroll your child in an activity with school peers. Determine what activities your child’s peers are enrolled in outside the classroom. Match the options with your child’s interests and enroll him/her. One activity is preferable to many activities. If it is a preferred activity, you will be placing your child with a group of like-minded children, making it easier for friendships to develop. As always, make time to discuss your child’s day, after school, each and every day, without fail!