Every year at the beginning of a new school year military kids throughout the world are starting at a new school. This year is my daughter’s first year to start at a new school where she doesn’t know anyone. As military parents, it can be hard to see our children having to put on a brave face because of our way of life. This year it will be more of a challenge as schools will likely look a lot different because of COVID-19. I’d like to offer five ways to help encourage your child in the face of a new school with new friends and with new school adaptations.
- Have a good morning routine that they can count on. With all the changes in how schools are operating, coupled with a new school, having a morning schedule is really important. A good breakfast with family time is a great way to start off days of uncertainty. Over time your child will know that morning routines are something they can rely on. It’s also a great way to keep them grounded in familiarity and comfort at the beginning of the day.
- Write notes of encouragement. I love writing on my daughter’s napkin every day before school. It has inevitably turned into a game to see if I can come up with something different to write and draw every day. She always wants to be surprised with whatever I write, so she is careful not to look while I’m doodling on the napkin. Then, at school in the middle of the day, she has a reminder that I’m thinking about her and I love her. I believe that the simplest of acts can have the greatest impact. And it is nice to know that on every good and bad day there’s a small note of encouragement waiting to meet her every time she opens her lunchbox.
- Make sure your child feels comfortable with the after-school routine. Last year, our after-school experiences were all over the place. It started out with a severely overcrowded school bus. After the crowding situation was under control, she had problems with the bus being a completely chaotic atmosphere. And eventually, I began picking her up from school. I’m not saying parents need to make any dramatic changes so you can be able to pick up your child from school every day, but just make sure they are comfortable in their after-school routine. I hadn’t realized that riding the bus put my daughter in a lot of situations that I wasn’t okay with. And it took a huge weight off her mind when I committed to picking her up from school every day. And as a parent I had to realize that I needed to keep asking questions to get to the bottom of it. Sometimes it’s hard to have the patience to keep asking, but it’s worth the peace of mind that they are safe and comfortable.
- Challenge them. This may seem like an odd suggestion, but as a military family we’ve made it a priority to always push ourselves and each other to be better. Seeing our children face challenges may be hard for us as parents, but the challenges in and of themselves aren’t bad, and they shouldn’t be seen as something to avoid. In fact, challenges build confidence and help with future challenges. My husband and I will challenge my daughter to make a new friend or learn a couple things about a new friend and tell us about them. Or challenge her to ask a question during class. All simple, easy tasks, but a small way to build her confidence and show her that she’s capable of doing a lot more than she thinks she is.
- Build them up. Make sure you have a healthy line of communication with your kids. Ask them questions and always build them up, not in a puffy, arrogant kind of way, but speak life into them. Use kind words and take the extra time to speak to their insecurities. The truth is there is no formula for making sure our children have a great school year, free of bad days and self-doubt. But we can be an anchor for them when their expectations of their school or friends are not met.
The reality is, whether your family just went through a PCS or not, this year is filled with adjustments. The best way to encourage our kids to push through the new challenges is to model for them how we deal with changes ourselves. Staying positive and challenging yourself to set a good example is the best thing you can do to encourage your kids. Talk to them, ask questions and build them up.