How adaptation in school contributes to the formation of the highly important skill of adapting to changeErudito
The beginning of autumn at school is a special time, offering both children and adults (parents, teachers) the opportunity to evaluate their ability to adapt to life’s changes. As adults, we know from personal life experience that the ability to adapt flexibly to inevitable changes in life is priceless and essential. However, children, especially at a young school age, are still developing this skill of adapting to changing circumstances.
Therefore, a child’s adjustment or adaptation to school can vary in terms of the level of anxiety it may cause. Appropriate, empathetic, patient, and calm reactions from adults, especially parents, can facilitate children’s adaptation processes at school. Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician and author known for his work in the field of children’s and adult mental health, emphasizes the importance of a supportive and empathetic adult approach in helping children adapt to school. According to G. Maté’s insights, several things can help children face the challenges of adapting to school (and beyond) and promote their emotional and mental growth:
- Building a strong emotional connection with the child.
This should be a top priority. It is crucial for children that parents dedicate quality time for sincere, empathetic, and engaging conversations with them. This means being genuinely interested in the child, actively listening, and being curious about the child’s thoughts. Quality attention doesn’t necessarily mean long conversations; rather, it involves conversations where the parent’s full focus is on the child, in the “here and now” moment, addressing the child’s concerns, joys, worries, thoughts, and ideas. Quality attention is an attempt to understand what, how, and why things are happening in the child’s life. A strong emotional connection with the child provides a foundation of security that allows the child to explore the school (or any other new and unfamiliar) environment with confidence. It enables them to react more calmly in unfamiliar social situations, knowing that understanding, support, and listening await them at home.
- Validating the child’s feelings.
Encourage the child to openly express their feelings about school. All feelings are valid, whether it’s anxiety, nervousness, or even great excitement. Let’s be our children’s emotional mirrors: “I see and understand that you’re feeling down, tell me what happened, I can help.” It’s important not to belittle or dismiss a child’s emotional experiences. Even more importantly, avoid projecting your own anxieties onto the child. While it’s entirely natural for parents to feel anxious too, a parent’s anxiety does not necessarily reflect the child’s feelings. Let’s allow children to understand that all the emotions they experience are permissible and that we are here to support them and teach them how to respond appropriately when intense emotions arise.
- Realistic expectations.
Help children understand that perfection (in academics, social interactions, etc.) is not the goal. Instead, emphasize the child’s efforts and the importance of learning from mistakes. Encourage a growth-oriented mindset, where challenges are seen as opportunities for growth and development. Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Scientific research shows that children who face and overcome challenges, sometimes on their own and sometimes with adult assistance, have the opportunity to develop greater psychological resilience compared to children who grow up shielded from any unpleasant experiences.
- A secure home environment.
Home should be a place where the child can relax and replenish the emotional, physical, and mental energy expended during the learning process. It’s important to understand that different children relax in different ways. Some may need solitude, some may value silence, and others may require opportunities for unstructured, free play where their imaginations can roam freely. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a consistent routine and parenting consistency, ensuring a proper balance between rest and activities at home. Additionally, it’s essential to help the child learn to respect their own and others’ personal boundaries.
We believe that by working together, we will smoothly navigate the changes in September and gain experiences that will strengthen us all and contribute to our growth.
Prepared by Psychologist of Erudito Licėjus Virginija Rekienė