Creative Child

Back to School: How to Give Your Child Emotional Support at Home

by Rebecca Eanes

For many of us, the time has come again to sign permission slips, pack lunches, oversee homework assignments, and empty folders. Yes, summer is over and our kids are back to school. You might notice that your child begins to melt down more often, becomes moody, or begins to act out. Before you send your eye-rolling kid to his room, consider this. School is stressful, and children’s developing brains aren’t yet fully equipped to handle it.

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Children must learn to navigate the ever-changing social climate. They may be put down, picked on, excluded, or called out in front of peers, and yet they mustn’t show vulnerability. Their negative emotions are bottled inside, swirling and swirling all day long, and by pick-up time, the storm is ready to be unleashed. Home is the only safe place to unleash it. Home is the place where children (hopefully) know they are loved exactly as they are – a place where they can take off the masks they’ve been wearing all day.

 

In addition to a child’s social struggles, they are now given the task of sitting still, shutting up, and paying attention for long periods of time (going against their very nature) as well as the responsibility to complete work in a timely manner and take in a lot of new information. Some children are adjusting to new teachers, changing classes, and complicated schedules for the first time. Young children (and some older ones!) are adjusting to being separated from their parents for long periods, and this can be alarming on its own.

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Finally, adding to the stress is the after-school marathon of homework, band practice, ball practice, recitals, and projects. Let’s also not forget that, thanks to social media and cell phones, they never really get away from the pressures of school life. It’s no wonder they’re melting down or acting out, and no amount of lectures or consequences will ease their troubled hearts. Here’s how to help:

 

1. Make home a safe place to express emotions. Children must learn healthy ways to express their feelings, and keeping them bottled up for fear of punishment doesn’t serve them well in this goal. Yes, emotions get messy, and it can be hard to watch anger or sadness sweep over our children, but unless they are released and empathized with, they will fester. Of course, parents must hold boundaries regarding behavior. Allowing expression doesn’t mean we stand by as our kids destroy property or yell nasty names at their siblings. It simply means that we listen and empathize while we hold our boundaries.

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