“I’m scared to go to high school. I don’t think I’ll fit in. And anyways how do people make friends there? They barely have time to hang out and people don’t go to the same class as you every single period… so how is it possible? I don’t get it. What if it takes me so long that I end up alone for the rest of the year?” – Real post from kidshelpphone.ca
Every summer, Kids Help Phone counsellors hear from kids who have vivid ideas about what might happen when they go back to school in September.
Young students who are transitioning into middle or high school sometimes fear that their new school will be violent, socially isolating, or that their peers will pressure them to do drugs.
“Over the summer, kids have time to create scenarios which become more and more overwhelming,” says Alain Johnson, Kids Help Phone Clinical Director. “Often, kids get these ideas from images of student life in the media, or from older siblings who are trying to scare them.”
To a kid who’s been bullied, moving on to a new school might seem to promise that old problems will disappear. For a kid who has felt isolated, a new class or a fresh wardrobe might be imagined as a quick way to increased popularity.
But after the first few weeks of school pass, many kids see their expectations falling short of reality. For kids with strong hopes or fears, the start of a new school year can be disorienting or disappointing.
Helping kids prepare for going back to school is about helping them to build realistic expectations.
“A kid’s biggest hope or worst fear probably won’t come true,” Alain says. “Help them grasp reality and understand what grounds their fears, or hopes, are based on.”
– Take time to listen. Start the conversation with an open statement, like, “tell me what you’re thinking.”
– Open up their hopes or fears to other possibilities. Ask them, “what if it doesn’t happen that way?” Help them understand that things could turn out differently.
– Use your kid’s past experiences. Maybe they changed teachers last year. Ask your kid how they handled this change and used their competencies and skills to work out a Plan B. The examples you draw from don’t have to relate to something that happened to them at school.
– Break down generalizations and big numbers.
– You don’t have to lecture kids on what’s bad for them, just let them know how to say no. And that you are there to listen and support, judgement-free.
– Find a time when you and your child are in a good mood before you talk. Don’t start on a negative. Say, “I’ve noticed…” or start with something anybody would hear or see: “I’m not judging you. I just want to understand.”
– Respect your child’s timing. If they don’t want to talk about it right then, that’s okay, as long as you make sure you do commit to having that discussion. You could also write letters, or email. As long as there is an exchange it doesn’t matter how you do it.
– Visit www.kidshelpphone.ca together. This website offers a lot of information about going back to school, as well as other resources on topics that matter most to young people. Let your child know that they can always call and talk to a counsellor here at 1-800-668-6868 FREE.