This is the season to remind children of important milestones. Whether a child is going to a new class or a new grade, rest assured that they are forming mental images of what the next situation might be like. Often, children don’t want to talk about change, in order to avoid anxiety.

When facing something new, our minds tend to project possible negative outcomes, as part an age-old mechanism of survival. “What if this happens?” Even if our children show only excitement about the next steps, talking about how much they have grown over the year is a powerful tool they can learn to use to reduce stress and feel successful in the future.

Start by talking about what they were like when they started school last September. What were their challenges? What skills have they gained? If children aren’t immediately interested in talking about the past, doing so in a fun way still establishes important perspectives in their minds. The key is talking in as much detail as possible. “The first day of kindergarten, I walked to your room with you, and you bravely went right in without even knowing if any friends would be there.”

Remember that our brains aren’t concerned with creating a positive outcome. It’s up to us to program good feelings, and the retrieval of good memories is important to that process. When we review the step-by-step process of accomplishments, our brain responds with feelings of self-confidence.

It’s hard for us to remember the challenges children have overcome. Once an issue, like not wanting to go to school, has been resolved, we may feel hesitant to bring it up. Sensitivity about whether a conversation is causing anxiety is important, but we can also have confidence that highlighting times when children have handled hard situations restores confidence.

Reviewing the trajectory of the year helps us, as parents, and as teachers, hold the perspective that children are resilient and capable of miraculous growth.

Children feel safer when adults have the wisdom to know that two emotions can be real at the same time. Traditionally, grown-ups have often vigorously denied this reality and tried to convince children that there’s only one way to feel, and we know what is.

Child: “No one wants to play with me. I feel left out.”

Adult: “You’re so happy when you’re with your friends.”

Child: “I’m scared about going to kindergarten.”

Adult: “Just the other day, you told me you were excited.”

If we insist children only voice positive feelings, we run the risk of disconnecting from them. We can also lose the opportunity to help them learn to cope with sadness or anxiety.

Adults have tried to reorient children’s emotions in the past, because the old belief was that listening to negative emotions intensifies them. “If I listen to my child’s fears about going to kindergarten or middle school, she’ll be even more afraid.” “If I say I understand my seven-year-old’s anger at her three-year-old brother, she’ll have more hostility toward him.”

Science and our own experience tell us that this pervasive belief simply isn’t true. When others listen to us, difficult reactions actually diminish and lose their sharp edges. Imagine telling a friend, “I’m dreading going to my new job!” and having her respond, “Nonsense, you know you’ll do great!” What is the likelihood you would feel safe confiding in that person again?

Listening strengthens connection. We don’t have to fix every situation in our child’s life, but we do need to stay tuned to what he’s saying and respond with empathy. “It’s hard when you feel left out. What helps when that’s happening? Is there anyone you talk to about it?”

  • Meher School Community

Parents Reflect on What They've Learned From a Year of Sheltering In Place

In our April 24 parent discussion group, participants shared how profoundly they’ve been affected by the events of the past year – sheltering in place, distance learning, working from home, COVID mitigations, and for some, the loss of loved ones or friends. They’ve felt isolated; they’ve feared for their children’s well-being.

But during the course of the conversation, it emerged that the pandemic has also yielded valuable life lessons for some, lessons that will remain with them when life returns to normal:

  • Slow down, enjoy the moment, smell the flowers (literally!). People are enjoying being home. Home-improvement projects, gardening, and spending time with family have become higher priorities.

  • Parents are valuing just having time with their children to talk, explore topics, and learn together, rather than focusing on achieving some goal.

  • It’s fine to just be. Just because we aren’t busily accomplishing some task that has a specific outcome or product doesn’t mean we’re wasting time or being unproductive. We don’t need to feel guilty about saying no to a request to do something if we just want or need to hang out, enjoy time with family, or just read a book or watch a movie.

“We are human beings, not human doings.” - John Bradshaw
  • Having less pressure to achieve and keep a schedule coupled with a greater need to manage stress has led to being more attuned to our own needs in the moment – listening to our body, being more able to adopt a growth mindset, relishing learning and growth rather than focusing just on mastery and achievement.

  • Some of our preconceived ideas about parenting, screen time, and TV have changed. There’s some really good programming that’s educational and thought provoking for children and adults.

  • Connections are critical. Feeling a part of a community and knowing you aren't alone makes all the difference in the world.

Are there lessons you’ve learned from a year of coping with COVID? Please see our corresponding posts on our Instagram or Facebook and leave a note in the comments. You can also email them to us: We’ll share your input with other parents in a future Wednesday Messages. (We don’t publish the names of social media contributors.)

(The April 24 parent group was the last one in the series. Be watching for news

about our new monthly online parent gatherings.)