It’s that time of year again! Kids are heading back to school. This is a unique and special time of year for our kids and can make or break their experience as they get under way with a new teacher, new classmates, old friends, and new challenges. Dads play an important role during this time of year and can be a strong foundational support to help their kids navigate these new beginnings. Here are a few things to consider when your child is starting their new year.
If this school year is your child’s first experience of school, whether it’s pre-school, kindergarten, first grade, or perhaps middle or high school, it can be an emotionally intense time for them. Even if a child is returning to a school they already went to in the spring, the first days can be charged with excitement, expectations, disappointments, or anxiety. As Dads we can provide much needed encouragement, emotional support, and co-regulation through this push off to a new school year’s voyage. Your child might be filled with emotions, and we can help them identify and process these feelings in healthy ways. Ask your child about what they’re feeling about their first days, new teachers, new classmates, old friends. When we help them identify their emotions, acknowledge them as appropriate, and help them co-regulate by validating these sometimes-confusing feelings, we show our kids that we care about them and what they are going through in school. There might be some tears, frustrations, fears, overwhelming excitement, or anxiety they experience at this time and Dads are fundamental in helping kids move through these emotions. Let your kids know how proud you are of their bravery and resilience in the face of trepidation and encourage them to approach their fears with courage. Remember what it was like to be a kid on that first day of school and share that its okay to have mixed emotions at this time, while you let them know all of the great new experiences and friends they will have this year.
Get involved in their school by meeting their teachers, attending PTA meetings, volunteering at school, or chaperoning field trips. When we participate in our child’s schooling, it shows them we care about them, and that education is important to your family values. Children who have parents that participate in their schools’ activities do much better academically and are more likely to have healthy interscholastic relationships with their peers. Being present with your kids at school also allows us Dads to have a keen perspective on what our child is experiencing directly, giving us more knowledge about how to approach the inevitable breakdowns and breakthroughs our children will experience in school.
If we reflect on our own childhood, it’s easy to realize that these first days are of paramount importance to our children as they embark on another school year’s journey. Let’s get involved and stay involved with them through this time so we can cherish the shared experience and send a powerful message to our kids that they are important to us, and that academia is a process of personal growth and discovery that can lead to great success in life through our experiential knowledge, social connections, and engagement with school activities.