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.