Starting a new school year can be daunting for students. But according to the panellists on this week’s episode of Helping Hands, Collett Smart (Psychologist), Kiran Skariah (Youth Worker and Online Gamer) and Sarah Crawford (Teacher) there are some practical things we can do, to ensure we support our kids through this transition.
Whether starting at a new school, facing changes in their friendship group, or even comparing their school holidays with the ‘amazing’ experiences their peers have posted online, there can be a lot of tension for students as they get back into the school year, no matter how old they are.
When our panellists, joined host, Laura Bennett, to discuss this important topic for an upcoming Helping Hands episode, they all agreed: open and honest conversation is really important. When parents take the opportunities to listen to their child and ask questions, demonstrating their unconditional love and support, it makes a huge difference.
Sarah encourages parents and teachers to teach students the word ‘yet’.
“So many students will be overwhelmed and say, ‘I can’t do it,’” she says. “You need to teach them the word ‘yet’... they’ve got to know it’s small steps.” While it may not happen overnight, it’s important that we teach our children to have the resilience to say, I may not be there ‘yet’, but I will get there, even if it takes some time, Sarah explains.
For Kindy kids, lunchtime can be stressful if they’re unable to open their food by themselves. Pre-open wrappers in their lunchbox, Collett advises, to help them develop some independence, rather than needing to rely on the teacher for all of the basics.
Kiran says that for teenagers, the new year is often seen as an opportunity for a fresh start, but this can very quickly turn into added pressure to be ‘perfect’. This is where honesty and transparency from parents is powerful. Kiran advises parents to talk to their teens about the fact that it’s OK to get it wrong sometimes and to lead by example by admitting, “Failure is a normal part of life. There are plenty of things that I’m not good at!” By talking about those things, it gives our teens permission to see mistakes as a normal part of life.
Take your child on a tour of the school, late in the afternoon, when most kids have already left, is Collett’s advice. Help them read their timetable and map out where their classes and bathrooms are. This will help them gain a sense of confidence in their new surroundings.
“Kids aren’t necessarily born with social skills from the word go,” Sarah explains. “We actually have to talk with them and help them build their toolbox. Give them the tools that they need to be successful. That only comes when we model and we have those conversations with them.”
Encourage your child to aim for 1% improvement with each interaction, rather than setting impossibly high goals or reaching for perfection, Kiran advises. “That’s a really important headspace to be in. Otherwise, there’s this level of perfectionism that comes in when where they just go, ‘I need to be this, because that’s what the world’s expecting of me, that’s what my parents and my teachers and everyone’s expecting of me.’”
“Ask children, ‘What is that thing that brings you joy?’” Collett says, and encourages parents to find out what makes their child come alive. Celebrate this by providing opportunities for them to engage in this activity and get involved with the community that has been built around this.
The process of transitioning into a new school year can be daunting for both parents and students, and showing a little extra kindness and compassion will go a long way. Take the time to remind kids that they are loved and supported, no matter where they are on the journey.
Collett, Kiran and Sarah will join host Laura Bennett, to share so much more of their expertise on Starting the School Year Well - for students when Helping Hands airs from Saturday, February 10 on 9GEM, Channel 9 and 9NOW.
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