Connection is a basic human need. Without connection, we struggle to have all our other needs met, including our emotional and social needs. As students readjust to face-to-face schooling, they need connection from us all more than ever, and above anything else. Without genuine connection, other needs will go unnoticed, and unmet. Curiosity and compassion are key components of effective connection – with these in your toolkit, you will be well positioned to support your children in their return to school, including those now taking their external exams.
Paying keen attention to our children’s behaviours often tells us much more than what they are able to communicate to us in conversation. It is important to intentionally set aside the parental urge to change our children when they display an unpleasant behaviour, and maintain a mindset of curiosity. What is the need they might have that is causing this? What is the skill they may need to develop? Some of the behaviours or attitudes children may display which indicate they are having difficulty managing the transition back to school include being more withdrawn than usual, defiance, and reluctance to accept help. Children may also report physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. You know your child well – pay attention to any change that doesn’t seem quite like them. It may be an indicator that they are in need of more support. Lean in with curiosity and ask questions to understand their experiences, without judgment:
What was your biggest challenge today?
What was a highlight for you this week?
What was one thing someone did that had a positive impact?
If you could wave a magic wand, what is one thing you would change?
Both as a parent myself and a teacher, I have sometimes been too quick to jump to fixing a situation that seems to be causing distress. However, we know that challenging experiences and emotions are a part of life. Many times the best thing we can do is to meet our children right where they are, and share in whatever they are feeling. There is no stronger way than this to communicate to someone that they are not alone, and that they have our unconditional support to face whatever the challenge might be. When our children communicate sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety – responding with empathy and compassion validates their feelings. Knowing that we accept them for who they are even in those moments contributes to a deep sense of self-assuredness and builds their resilience for coping in difficult times. Adding empathy and compassion to your curiosity, try your own version of these responses when your child displays challenging emotions:
It’s tough! What do you think is the hardest part for you?
Of course you’re sad – I get it. You’ve lost some things you really enjoyed.
I feel anxious too. I can’t predict what will happen, and that can be scary. But whatever happens, I’ll be here.
Vice-Principal, Guidance & Wellbeing