New beginnings bring along with them lots of mixed feelings. For some, they’re feelings of hope, renewal and optimism, while for others, they’re feelings of anxiety and fear. While not knowing what lies ahead of us is a reality of living in this world, we have within our power the ability to decide how we’ll approach that unknown future.
This time of year marks the start of a new school year. For some children, it’s an entirely new experience: going to school for the very first time. For other children, it might just mean advancing to another grade, or perhaps changing to a new school, new teacher, new friends, and new school uniform. Whatever the case, every school-goer is facing “something new”.
What does this “new school beginning” mean for us as parents? What feelings does it evoke? As parents, do we play any role in this significant time in our children’s lives? Can we be of any influence on our children’s new school year experience? The answers to the questions above are obviously as varied as the parents sending off their children to school.
For those parents who feel concern and worry over the new school year, the questions and concerns are many: Will my child get along with his new teacher and friends? Will he manage the work load and tight schedule? Will he cope
with the homework, tests and pressure? Will it mean that my free time in the afternoons and evenings will be taken up with helping him with homework, writing essays and studying for tests?
I’ll never forget a mother in one of my parenting groups who presented the following dilemma: to send her youngest daughter up to first grade or to leave her behind an extra year in nursery school. In trying to understand the mother’s reluctance to have her daughter proceed on to school, she answered with an exhausted sigh: “I’m already doing homework with six of my other kids. I don’t have enough hours in the day to do homework with seven! Once my eldest graduates High School at the end of the year, I’ll have the time for homework with my youngest daughter.”
For other parents, the start of the new school year is a time of excitement, joy and enthusiasm. Aside from the relief at the long summer holiday coming to an end, during which time the kids might have roamed around aimlessly, bored and without any structure, the new school year brings back a clear routine and schedule. It’s a time for new experiences, challenges and opportunities. It’s a time of growth and maturity. A perfect example of the enthusiasm is the gleam in the eyes of the first grader. He cannot wait to wear a school uniform, carry a heavy school bag of books, finish school late and do lots of home- work, just like the “big kids”.
Whatever feelings we may identify with (likely a combination of both sides of the spectrum), we undoubtedly want the new school year to be successful, productive, empowering and filled with good experiences. No matter what kind of person we are, or what kind of parental patterns we use, all of us want the very best for our kids. Based on this, we often find ourselves hovering over them like helicopters, ironing out every crease life might have in line for them long before they even face it.
As parents we scrupulously choose the perfect school for our kids, making sure it suits our demands and answers to the needs of our children. We furnish them with school uniforms, notebooks, text books and stationery (only the latest brands, of course, because, G-d forbid, our children should feel that they’re “not with it”). But then the real problems start. Instead of letting a child fend for himself, we continue taking hold of the reins. We try to find out, way before the year begins, which class the child will be in and who’s destined to be his teacher. Should the teacher not meet our fancy, we go to endless efforts to change his class. Likewise with his classmates – what a commotion if he isn’t placed with his best friend, or doesn’t quite like some of the other students. Once the year starts, we’re running after our kids to ensure that sandwiches haven’t been left behind. We’re poking into school bags making sure that homework is done. We’re religiously following WhatsApp messages to know exactly when the next test or due date for an assignment is.
What we really need is our own lesson: Dear parents, stop! Step back! Let go! You’ve done your bit. Now let your child cope with school himself. Facing challenges and learning how to tackle them is the “school of life”. Even if he errs, even if he falls, a child will learn to get up and move along. No, it’s not cruel, it’s what true education is all about, and do you know what? At the end of the day that’s what a child wants: to be independent and self-functioning. Let’s be honest, we can’t always be there for our children, and what’s more, even we parents don’t always have all the answers. So, once we’ve provided for the essentials to start the new year, all that’s left for us to put in our child’s school bag is…trust. Trust and more trust!
TRUST that he’ll manage his teacher even if he (or we) thinks that teacher moonlights as a witch.
TRUST that he’ll get along socially with whomever is placed with him in class or whoever he lands up sitting next to.
TRUST that he’ll cope with the transition from nursery to elementary school without withdrawal symptoms to the sandpit, jungle gym, or dolls’ corner.
TRUST that he’ll manage the work load, understand the subject matter and withstand the pressure of exams. (After all, he’s studying with students at a similar cognitive level.)
TRUST that even if things don’t go so smoothly, even if a child with a sensitive soul is reprimanded, left out of a game, or fails an exam, he’ll find the inner strength to pull through, to acquire social skills and take responsibility for his mistakes.
TRUST that no matter what happened in the past, be it bad social experiences, poor academic achievement, or a bad attitude to studies, he’ll seize the moment and realise that a new beginning brings with it opportunities to improve and succeed.
The most important thing we do while we’re trusting our children is realise that that’s really our role as their parents. True trust doesn’t come out of desperation or the lack of something better or more effective to do. Trust is that truly essential ingredient that enables our children to develop from infants into fully functioning adults; it’s that self-developed muscle in the wings we attach to our children that will enable them to soar through the challenges of life, continually striving for greater heights.
So, as we stand, once again, at the be- ginning of the new school year, let’s face it with joy, enthusiasm and… trust! Trusting our children frees us as from the endless worries concerning the new school year, helps get rid of our anxieties, and encourages our children to go ahead, achieve and succeed. Trust is the very best thing our children can find in their school bags on their first day of school!
Aviva Porush was born and raised in South Africa. She lives with her family in Jerusalem. A teacher and educator for nearly 25 years, she is also a certified, parenting counsellor, according to the Shefer Approach. She leads workshops and gives private counselling to both parents and teachers, strengthening their confidence in their respective roles. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org