Who would have thought that black school shoes could be so complicated? “Too ugly, no heels allowed, too lame, who would make shoes like these….” Back-to-school shopping with my 13 year old daughter was testing my mettle!
It’s a funny time of the year really. Whether your first born is heading off to “big school” or into 6th Year, it marks a time of change for both student and parent. For both, it can be quite an emotional time and so it’s good to remind ourselves of some aspects of Emotional Intelligence that can help ease everyone back to school, without too much upset.
As always, the key to it all is Self-Awareness. Tuning in to what we are feeling and why it will help us to manage those feelings appropriately. 65% of people cannot accurately identify their emotions in the moment. So, if you’re feeling upset at your baby heading off to school (or indeed college) – if you reflect a little more you might find it’s more connected with fear, for example. Are you afraid he or she won’t fit in, or will find the school atmosphere daunting. Are you afraid they won’t cope? Or, maybe it’s linked to a tinge of loneliness, the empty house when they’re gone. So take a little time to recognise what that emotion is and why.
Empathy is also key here. I felt quite irritated in the shoe shop, but I reminded myself that no girl wants to wear ugly shoes! So, deep breath in, I ask her what she is thinking of and we go in search of that. Patience with a youngster pays off big time, and so does listening. Can you remember how you felt going back to school? I know we often trot out the same phrases our parents said to us, like “sure, you’ll be grand” and “I don’t know what you’re worrying about”, but asking rather than telling gives him or her a chance to air their fears.
Self-Control reminds us not to say the first reactive thing that comes into our heads. Rather than batting away their fears, help them to find solutions instead, giving them the chance to build their resilience. Remind them how they came across something like that before and how they handled it, or ask them who might be a good friend or teacher to help out if such a situation arose.
One of the key Emotional Intelligence skills I believe we need to be teaching our children, right now, is how to be Resilient. School can be difficult for many children, in many different kinds of ways. Isolation, bullying, academic results, sports, learning difficulties – all pose different kinds of challenges for our children and consequently for parents. Maintaining an Optimistic outlook, which is realistic but achievable helps build confidence. Making sure that we are connected to our child, the way they are, not the way we think they “should” be, will help our child to be Self-Reliant and have more trust in themselves. Reminding them that they have friends and family who will support them when things are tough will strengthen their Courage and their ability to cope.
As parents we worry. But we too must build our trust in our children. How many times have they really surprised you in something you thought was beyond them? 90% of what you worry about never happens! Worry and anxiety comes from Future Events Appearing Real (FEAR). Reminding ourselves, and them that the source of our worry is hasn’t even occurred and isn’t likely to, may at least help us to manage our anxiety a bit better.
Above all, keep a sense of perspective and good humour! Going back to school is really a happy time. Another year of progress and growing up, another year of learning and a chance to belong to and participate in activities that will develop our children in all kinds of ways.
Even the difficult relationships they will encounter, the subjects they can’t master, the frustration of the sports day or the cruel word from a class mate are all challenges that will stretch our children to find their inner resources and prepare for adult life. Our job is to help them make sense of those occasions, help them to find solutions to deal with them in the future and reassure them that they are a masterpiece in the making, with endless possibilities and potential. What’s to worry about?