Have heard from a lot of parents struggling to deal with their child’s return to school.  Often classes are mixed up, best friends split up, it can be a very difficult time, especially if your child suffers from anxiety.

IT’S OKAY FOR YOUR CHILD TO EXPERIENCE NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

One thing I come across far too often in my art classes are pre-teens who are lost.  As children hit 12 and 13 their hormones hit, it is the precursor to High School with all its challenges and, frankly, emotional hardships, those who have been protected from experiencing fear, loneliness, anger, frustration, rage … are utterly lost.  They lack the resilience to deal with the challenges of pre-teens: they are the ones who will follow sheeplike any “leader” in their peers.  They seek external solutions to internal problems.

Those that have been permitted to suffer as little kids, and middle school students, are resilient and independent.  Emotionally, intellectually and physically independent.  When they came home from Kindergarten… Grade 1 or Grade 5….  and they burst into tears, swearing they never wanted to return to school they found empathy and love, but they were shuffled back to school the next morning, regardless.

WORK WITH THEIR TEACHER/SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION

Most schools are focused on Mental Health these days.  Trust the system.  Trust the school.  Trust the teacher.

Work with them.  Build communication and find solutions within the school.  DO NOT DICTATE, listen, offer information on your child and follow their advice.  They are the trained professionals.   I know this sounds harsh and I say it from experience.  This week my own daughter (10 in Grade 5) had a meltdown.  Last year was a tough year for her in a tough class, as I am a volunteer art teacher at her school I am wary of interfering in class choices, etc as I am privy to more than others parents.  In hindsight, disengaging TOO MUCH was not a great move on my part.  Bit of a Mummy fail.  I should have requested a class at the end of June instead of trusting that the system would take care of things for her.

The teacher from last year requested that she keep Gypsy with her this year.

Gypsy was devastated to remain in the class that was difficult last year (lots of reasons none of which had to do with the teacher in question), and desperately wanted to go “upstairs” to the higher grades floor.  I requested a class move and met with the school administration who very kindly said “Not on your life m’dear”.  Yup.  I helicoptered in.  Chopper blades going, my guns locked n loaded.

Thing is though, once I was in the office my other brain took over again.  The teacher and the school veteran stepped into my brain and said, “Hey numpty what ye doing?”  So I listened, we came up with some solutions and a plan to ease her way forward this year within the class she was placed.

GIVE YOUR CHILD SELF SOOTHING TOOLS

I am a big believer in DIARIES and JOURNALS.

Last year when Gypsy was struggling in class she focused her attention on her ABORIGINAL ABC BOOK – a fun project her teacher created which asked the chilren to research facts about aboriginal peoples in Canada and illustrate/write about it for each letter in the alphabet.  Gypsy poured her heart into that book, it created a place to go when there was too much chaos around her.

Give your child a journal.  I have given my step-son (aged 8, Grade 3) a MONSTER JOURNAL with stickers of fun monsters.  He has a main hero (his name spelt backwards) and a story about who he is, what he eats, what he likes to do, etc.  All the pages after are about other monsters and how they connect to his main hero.  He writes, draws, colours them in.  I doodle funny cartoons for him that he then colours in and we talk about the journal.  I can see his shoulders relax, his breathing evens,  as he becomes immersed in his internal world.  He takes it to school and doodles there, shows it to his teacher and his friends.

For my 12 year old there is the Japanese ANIME characters she loves to create.  I have worked with her class on creating these journals and understanding the rules around how to draw them.  This year I will be teaching the older grades about War Hammer (look it up!) and give them an alternative narrative to create internal self-soothing avenues.

It’s an inexpensive and powerful self-soothing tool.  It will require a decent sized zipper bag (preferably one your child will love and relate to), decent quality colouring pencils (I like Prisma SCHOLAR not ARTIST grade, as if they drop the higher grade pencils they will smash throughout and be useless) or felts/markers (ones with a dual wide and a narrow point are best) and a good quality notebook/journal with heavy paper that won’t tear easily.  Stickers, tracers, print out and cut out cool ideas that match their preferred genre.  Be an active part of this, encourage and engage.

SHARE YOUR OWN STORIES OF SCHOOL HARDSHIPS & SURVIVAL

Be genuine.  Don’t make anything up, kids can tell if you do.

Share your own stories or get Grandpa to.  Knowing they are not alone and that others have gone before them, helps.

DON’T TAKE THIS ON, DO NOT INTERNALIZE YOUR CHILD’S JOURNEY

Yes this is your baby, but it’s his life.

He is not an extension of you.  She is not a mini-You.

 

If you have any questions please feel free to connect anytime.  Happy to answer and share other coping skills I’ve learnt over the last decade or so!

Kate Gillie
Author

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