It’s that time of year again when change is in the air. Whether it’s beginning kindergarten, changing grades, entering middle school, starting high school or going off to college, our kids go through a lot of transitions and change in their lives.
These transitions can create stress and behavioral problems no matter the age. As parents, we can help by maintaining a healthy attitude towards change and supporting our kids.
“Sometimes, parents are more worried about the upcoming changes than the kids,” says Youth Eastside Services’ Parenting Specialist Jennifer Watanabe. “It helps if parents are comfortable with the changes so kids will feel comfortable with what’s ahead,” she noted.
Watanabe explains one of the reasons why it’s so important for parents to have a healthy attitude towards change is because our children take their cues from us.
“You may be concerned for them, but don’t let that concern cloud their experience,” she cautions.
Even if your children are nervous about their upcoming school year, be supportive and let them know you’re there. However, don’t dismiss their feelings with statements like “Everything will be all right, don’t worry.” It’s actually better to acknowledge fears and anxieties and then reassure them that they will get through it and you will be there to help.
Sometimes, making a plan in case there is a problem can offer comfort for youth. Ask them what they are afraid of and help them create a plan for overcoming the hurdles. Because life always comes with hurdles, learning how to manage them is a good life skill that will serve young people well.
It’s also important to avoid “red-flag” language like, “This school year is going to be tough.” This increases stress and distracts your child from starting school with an open attitude. Let them express their own opinions and concerns.
However, if your child has uncontrolled anxiety, or it’s interfering with their ability to eat and function normally, bringing in a counselor to help may ease the situation. Organizations specializing in youth and family mental health, like Youth Eastside Services, are your best resources.
Shifting grades is just the beginning of the many changes life will bring your kids. Let your attitude demonstrate that change is a natural part of growing up. It will help them accept and adjust—this year and for years to come.
Patti Skelton-McGougan is executive director of Youth Eastside Services. For more information, call 425-747-4937 or go to www.youtheastsideservices.org.