Let Your Kids Be Anxious

I don’t know if this is mean. I don’t think it is. But I know some parents may find it offensive. Yo, different strokes.

Here’s the thing: my son is starting First grade in a couple weeks! Woo hoo! No more paying for school!

He’s starting at a brand new school. As in a school that is still currently under construction. A school no kid has ever gone to before.

Blank canvas for every kid and teacher and administrator there. Parents too.

But us parents we have a way of ruining everything, don’t we. I mean, we have good intentions, but we fuck things up every chance we get.

Case in point:

The school (which I’m excited about) let the families start a Facebook group for the parents of kiddos that will be going there.

Ugh.

A bunch of parents started trying to arrange play dates so their kids would know someone in their class and not be so nervous about starting school. Despite the fact that the school has already arranged two such events.

Then they started posting about how their kid is so anxious about the situation and the child really needs a friend going into the school year.

And we’ll stop there. I don’t want to bash these well-intentioned but (in my opinion) totally wrong parents any more. They just want to make navigating the world easier for thier kids.

Unfortunately, they are doing the exact opposite.

The thing is that kids are supposed to be anxious about starting a new school. That is how they learn to deal with anxiety. If we remove it, how will they compose themselves later in life before a big job interview or something important?

Starting a new school is low stakes. The teachers and staff will take care of the crying kid. Trust me, we hate to see kiddos upset and crying. We give them direction and advice and help them build skills to deal with situations.

You see they need to build this skill set. Social/Emotional skills to deal with life. Sometimes, more applicable than math (sorry, math teachers). Sometimes we call them coping skills.

However, parents need to do this at home. Low stake events like jumping safely into a pool with lifegaurds and a ton of adult supervision, or meeting someone new, or starting a new school are things kids need to be uncertain, fearful and anxious of. Then they do it and see it’s fine. And they grow a little. Their confidence builds. They believe in themselves.

If we remove barriers as parents, we’re doing a huge disservice to our kids. I mean, I’m certainly not going to contact potential future employers and smooth things over before my son goes in for an interview.

And the younger our kids are, the better for them to start developing these skills. We don’t want to perpetuate Xanax nation. Let them nervous. Let them be anxious. Let them invest in low stakes opportunities and then reap the rewards.

Let them fail. That one I cannot say enough. Let them fail. My son took two years to figure out how to ride his scooter. It wasn’t until he failed over and over again that he made a scooter pal at the skate park then got pointers from a peer and figured it out.

He’s so proud now!

I’ve made him problem solve so many things that at this point he really gives it a try before asking for help. We have to usher our children from babies to growing citizens. We have to teach them to work hard and not just expect things.

We have to hold their hand and do a gut check with ourselves to know when to push them out of the nest to learn to fly. There is nothing more glorius than your child flying.

We need to teach them grit. Yep, that first day of school may super suck, but you’re going back. Eventually, it won’t suck so much. Or maybe it’s not going to be your life’s greatest highlight. Don’t worry, there is so much more out there. We need to teach them that. And if they want to get past the parts that are not so great they need to hunker down and keep pushing forward.

We need to teach them to stop caring about what other people think of them. Our children need to find value in themselves, not what others think of them. Not likes or shares. They are people not brands. (Keep them off social media! And for real, young kids don’t need phones.)

And they need to be taught how to ice out the assholes. (My husband and I disagree on this one. He’s all about being the nice guy. I’m all about not taking shit.) So far from what I’ve witnessed, my son is getting a good balance of both.

Give your kids the best and worst of you and help them understand which parts aren’t so great and why. Help them not live in a cycle of suck, but think for themselve and decide what sort of person they want to be. Help them see the big picture of life. Even though the here and now is all they can process, remind them of the huge life they have yet to live.

Let them be anxious. Let them be scared. Let them figure things out for themselves. Let them fail. Pick them up, kiss the boo boo, then let them try it again. Let them find their way to glory by navigating the bumps and joys in life. Be there for them, but don’t fix it for them.

I hope everyone has a great start to their school year and if not, don’t worry. It’s only a year. (Remind your kids of that.) XOXO

 

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