Combating Your (Kids’) Jitters

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. 

~Albert Einstein

After much anticipation, school is finally starting.  It couldn’t come at a better time.  The kids have spent almost every day together the past two weeks.  They need separation.  They need structure.  They need school.  I need separation.

Isn’t it interesting how kids deal with anxiety?  Emotionally, my kids are split down the middle.   My son tends to err on the unflappable end of the spectrum (like my husband).  Conversely, my daughter’s radar picks up every possible feeling, and she’s not afraid to articulate when each new wave washes over her.  When I asked my son what most excites him about first grade, he actually told me to stop asking him that question. “I’m excited about everything Mom,” he said in an exasperated annoyed voice.  My daughter’s answer to this very same question became a litany of potential fears and what if’s. Oy (and the actual schoolwork isn’t even hard yet).  These moments are so crucial.   I feel like I’m walking the proverbial tight rope.  One slip, one disagreement and we could both start a free fall.  So, I had to think fast to try to prevent my daughter’s spool from unraveling even more.

Luckily, I can still pull some cues from Mom.  I remember she always asked what we wanted as our “last supper” before the first school day – it was Children’s Choice.  My kids were excited to not only dictate our meal but, also help in the preparation and cooking (something I didn’t do as a kid).  The past few times we’ve cooked together we’ve experienced something so gratifying and unifying.  We took turns reading the recipe and splitting up the jobs.  I saw my daughter gradually slough off her jitters as she got engrossed in zesting lemons and sautéing broccoli.

No longer nervous...just focused on meal prep.

Next diversion after meal prep: first-day outfit selection.  This seems very superficial, especially for a soon-to-be 4th grader but, it’s fun.  I did exactly what my mom used to do, I just sat back and watched her wardrobe change at least 3-4 times before she chose the right outfit.   Normally she could care less what she wears to school.  Somehow, I got her to shift her focus away from the nervousness of her new class to that of leggings vs. skirt, rain boots vs sneakers, t-shirt vs. sweatshirt (thank god for no uniforms).

It’s during these pivotal times in my children’s lives that I crave my Mom’s physical presence.  What I wouldn’t give to call her up, recant my the-day-before-school stories and have her say to me, as she always did when I became a new mom, “Shari, your going to get everything back in spades.”

Mom made everything look so easy.  I had no idea half the time she was probably fumbling the same way I am now.

Guaranteed, the first few days of the new school year, I’m the one in my apartment who loses sleep.

Do you have any tactics to help your kids combat their jitters?

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