It is back-to-school for so many students this time of year! Children's feelings can be raw leading up to the first day of school, with stomach butterflies and nervous feelings anticipating new changes, routines and social situations.
What can parents do to support children in the transition back to the classroom and after school programs? It's important to listen to your child's feelings and help them get specific about what is causing a nervous feeling. Some examples include:
-being left out
-having argument with a friend or sibling
-loss of a friendship.
Left out is a feeling that most children experience at some point, leading to feelings of rejection. To help a child who has been left out, or is dealing with some other rejection, it's important to help them:
1) name the feeling(s) and then
2) put words to why the feeling is happening.
3) and then, brainstorm together ways that child can problem solve
When teaching your child to problem solve, think of choices they have, then encourage them to select a choice to resolve the problem, try it and see what changes about how they feel. Check to see with them, did it solve the problem? If not, encourage them to pick and try a different choice.
When parents teach children how to bounce back through problem solving, children can move forward through rejection, to a place of understanding of self, to feel empowered, and to move on. This builds resiliency!
When should a parent step-in versus take a back seat?
Parents can help a child co-regulate. Calming down can succeed with parental support. The parent's role is to help name the upsetting feeling and listen with curiosity. These strategies lead to drawing out from the child what is going on. Parents can listen with empathy and help emotionally coach that child, without prescribing the solution for them. Ultimately, parents take a back seat when their child is bouncing back, and moving forward in a good direction.
How can parents help children learn that rejection (a hard-to-have feeling) is part of life (and how to learn from it)?
When the incident has passed, parents can reflect to that child: how they were able to handle a feeling of being left out or rejected, and ask them, what did they learn?
Support your child's personal understanding and insight by validating it. How? Simply reflect what they have said about what they learned. Use their words. Children are capable of deep insight and self-reflection, if we as adults, slow down and take the time to listen.
With support and emotion coaching, children can learn to bounce through the most hard-to-have feelings, such as rejection, and learn to move forward with resiliency.
Maryellen P. Mullin, LMFT
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