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Back To School Prep For Kids

It’s that time of the year again! With September just around the corner, school lists are being pulled off the bulletin board, shopping begins and the kids are counting down. This can feel like an exciting time of year as clothing and school supplies are purchased to ready your children for a “new and often unfamiliar experience.” They may be entering daycare, preschool, kindergarten, high school or attending and possibly leaving home to attend a post-secondary institution.

All of the above passages require children to venture into the “unknown.”

My grandson Jake, is featured in the photo. This was his first day of kindergarten. Can you tell? I appreciate the expression on his face. It seems to convey, ”I don’t quite know what I am walking into today and I am not entirely sure I will like it.” A normal response, and a teachable moment. As parents get to mentor and empower children to navigate and embrace change.

I just finished reading the book “Learning to Love Yourself” written by Gay Hendricks. The subtitle: A Guide to Becoming Centered, really resonated with me. When we do enter a new and unfamiliar situation, it can feel like our foundation is shaken. What I appreciate about his book, is that he shares his own childhood experiences and the “fallout” he experienced from the messages he received to deny his feelings. Emotions can only be held at bay for so long, until they find a way to express. This can have serious consequences on our physical and mental health.

I too, was raised in a family that didn’t acknowledge or express “vulnerable” feelings.” My father drank excessively to manage his, and the rest of us worked hard to deny that anything was wrong in our home. If you had a similar childhood experience, you are not alone.

From where I am today, I know my parents did the best they could given the level of understanding they had at that time. And now as adults we have a choice. We GET to do it differently.

From Hendrick’s personal lifework and perspective, (psychologist, writer and teacher in the field of personal growth, relationships and body intelligence) he speaks of the importance of acknowledging, accepting and feeling ALL of our feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly. This is how we grow in confidence and experience “mental health.” In his book, Hendricks shares a very startling statistic, “in the U.S., 100 million prescriptions in a year are written for tranquilizer medication.” This book was published in 1993…YIKES!!

Today one in four youth deaths are attributed to suicide. This is a sobering and alarming fact.

It’s hard to watch our children struggle, and experience their uncomfortable feelings, especially if you didn’t have this guidance when you were young. Perhaps you heard one or many of these platitudes- meant to alleviate your anxiety: Don’t worry; there is nothing to worry about; you’ll be fine; don’t be silly; calm down; there is nothing to be afraid of; stop thinking about it; Its all in your head; don’t be a sissy.

From where I am today and what I’ve learned and coached, I want to share some powerful tools that you can use to support not just your children, but yourself to navigate fear. I personally use them in my own life, and have shared them with clients who’ve learned to befriend their fear to navigate some tough stuff, and the fear that comes with moving forward to create new beginnings.

A great way to foster open communication is to:

1. Ask your child how they are feeling about going to school or college or leaving home. Invite the opportunity for them to openly and honestly share their fears and excitement.

2. Acknowledge what they share. ”I hear you; this is new for you and can feel scary.”

3. Normalize fear and share times when you have felt afraid to start something new too- perhaps a new job or going back to work or school yourself. Tell them that you now see fear as a signal. It shows up when we are growing, so it is really something to celebrate. It will be present when we are moving beyond what we know. A great mantra to share with them is, “here I grow again.”

4. Have them acknowledge what they are afraid of, or worried about. You can even write down some of their “what if’s” with them…

What if I don’t make any friends?

What if the teacher is mean?

What if I the work is too hard?

What if I don’t like school

For older kids it might be:

What if I find out I don’t like this career path?

What if I don’t fit in?

What if I can’t keep up with the workload?

What if I fail?

What if I’m homesick?

In the programs I coach, we call this staring down the fear, calling it out.

Ask your children if there is a place in their bodies that they feel their fear or worry? A friend of mine shared that throughout her grade two year, she had stomach aches almost daily. She ended up failing grade 2 and put even more pressure on herself to succeed. In university she was diagnosed with Crohn’s (an inflammatory bowel disease.)

A powerful tool I teach is breath work. A long slow breath in through the nose, and a long exhale through pursed lips (as if breathing out of a straw) CAN shift our nervous system and help us to relax. When we calm down, “we learn to stay” in the situation long enough to find our center again. This is how we grow our capacity to navigate change.

5. Once you’ve acknowledged all of your children’s fears, invite them to tell you and perhaps write down or draw pictures of what experiences they would love for this school year or new situation. Perhaps its new friends, sleep overs, birthday parties, learning to read, playing sports, a great report cards, the school travel club, drivers ed, new independence, graduation etc... When fear does arise for them again, or when they seem to be falling back into worry, remind them to take some deep breaths and bring to mind WANT they do want to experience as they move into this new and unfamiliar situation.

Try using these tools the next time YOU feel fearful or worried.

Ultimately, we are all our child’s first and most important teacher. Live what you want your children to learn.

Here’s to a great school year!

If you’d love more support for yourself and/or your child, REMEMBER…asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is evidence of self-awareness, courage and strength.

Visit for free and valuable resources and tools to Help You Support Positive Mental Health. Learn How to Manage Mental Health Struggle in Yourself and Others.

10% of “What If You Could?” book sale profits are being donated to this amazing organization What if together we can support to live into their mental health.

If you would like to make your own donation to support youth mental health and receive your official receipt for income tax purposes visit

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