Back to School: How to Build Your Child's Confidence, Independence, and Resilience

Guest author, Dr. Becky, shares her top tips for parents to help empower their child during the back to school season

At Guidepost, we love making connections with other thinkers in the world of education, child development, and parenting who, like us, want to help children build independence so they can achieve their full potential. In this blog, we're excited to host Dr. Becky as a guest author to share some of her best tips for making a smooth transition back to school. Dr. Becky is a clinical psychologist, bestselling author, and founder of Good Inside, a parenting platform and community designed to empower parents to solve challenging problems in the home while deepening the bonds they have with their child(ren).

Back to School: How to Build Your Child's Confidence, Independence, and Resilience

As the first day of school approaches and you prepare for the summer-to-fall transition, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and anxious. It’s a big change to adjust from long, low-pressure days of August to busy, rushed mornings in September, so it makes sense that you and your child feel hesitant or stressed. I’m excited to share some good news: there are small things we can do that have a big impact on this transition; so let’s review three key strategies that will help your child enter their classroom with confidence, independence, and resilience.

Talk About School

Many parents worry that talking about separation will make a child more anxious—but actually, quite the opposite is true. When kids are surprised by what’s happening around them, they often feel out-of-control—and then they act out-of-control; by contrast, kids who are prepared for what’s to come are able to access feelings of competence and resilience. So, talk to your child about a school separation before it happens. A few days before school begins, talk about what school is, how you'll get there, the teachers' names (show pictures if you can!), what the classroom will look like, and what drop-off will be like. You might say, "In a few days, you'll be going to school! School is a place where you will work and learn with other kids and where there are adults called teachers who take care of you while you're there. There are tables and chairs and lots of books and special items just for kids who love learning, like you!”

Routine + Practice

Come up with a separation routine that is easy to practice and repeat – something short and sweet. Maybe you say, "When we say good-bye, I'll give you one hug, say 'See ya later, alligator! and 'Daddy always comes back!, and then I'll turn around and leave. You'll be with your teachers then, and if any big feelings come up, they'll know how to help you. Let's practice!" Then, act out the scene of drop-off. Feel free to be the kid first and have your child be the adult, and then switch roles. Practice will make the whole routine feel more familiar, and eventually lead to mastery, which helps separation feel safer.

Notice Your Child's Capability

Here’s something important to keep in mind: your child is capable and resourceful. It’s easy to forget this, especially because it’s often quicker to do things for our kids than wait and allow them the time and space to do things for themselves. Remember that children are forming their identity as they develop—so allowing them to struggle a bit, so they can find their own progress and success, helps them feel capable, independent, and resilient. Plus, reflecting back their work process allows children to build their self-esteem. You can do this in very simple ways; for example, when your child is working on a puzzle at home, you might share, “I’m noticing how hard you’re working there.” When your child asks for a fork, you might say: “I know you’re able to do this by yourself! The forks are right there.” By reflecting your child’s capability, you allow your child to witness themselves acting in independent ways - and this will help them transition to a school where they will continue to develop these skills.

And while we’re talking about independence and capability, I want to give you a sneak-peak into one of our newest Guides within Good Inside Membership – The Good Inside Guide to Chores. Every parent I know wants to implement chores… but most don’t because they aren’t sure where to start. Well, not to worry – this guide will give you a step-by-step process for implementing chores with your kids, in your home. Check it out and then check out all the other resources we offer parents for every milestone, struggle, and stage of parenting.