So what can I do to help ease the anxiety of middle school? Moreover, what can any parent do to help send children back to school feeling confident, capable, and loved?
I was pondering these questions on recent walk when it hit me – or maybe I should say: when I stepped on an answer – literally! Let me set the tone: There’s a beautiful park, in the heart of the city where I live, that’s filled with museums, theatres, hiking trails, and walking paths. I like to go there by myself to clear my head. My favorite leg of the walk is a bridge perched high above the highways. The breeze is perfect, and the hum of the cars below provides the perfect level of white noise for transitioning into a “mind like water” state.
On this particular day, as I stepped onto the bridge, I was greeted by something unexpected:
You are the music that brings joy to the world. My first thought was, “How sweet!” (Even though the wording was a touch corny for me!) And so I continued on my walk. A short while later, I stumbled on another note:
Life is wonderful because of you.
Nice, right? What a lovely thought. This message brought a smile to my face and added a jump to my step. As I continued crossing the bridge I found more inspiration:
Everywhere you go, you are a gift. Now you’re talking! Who doesn’t want to hear this? At this point, the sidewalk chalk artist had not only my attention, but my gratitude. These little messages probably took just a few minutes to write, yet their impact was profound. I lifted my gaze and noticed more encouragement awaiting me up and down the bridge. At that point, the mind-clearing walk was over as I ran to my car to get my camera while my mind filled with possibilities, first and foremost:
How early do I have to be at my daughter’s school on the first day of 6th grade to scribble some of these messages outside the front gate…without being detected?
Among the 9 different quotes I photographed, my favorite is the one at the top of this article: "You are wonderful just the way you are."
Isn’t this what we want our children to believe? In spite of all the tests – academic as well as social, cliques, mean girls, bullying behaviors, machismo, any other forces that weigh heavily on our children, we want them to stay true to themselves. However, in the midst of the school jungle, it’s sometimes hard for them to remember how great they are. So let’s come up with creative ways to remind them. Here are some ideas:
Whether you choose to chalk a message applicable to any student outside the school gates or send a private message to your child, let’s remind them that they matter and someone cares. These little supportive gestures can be exactly what our children need to help them greet the school day with optimism, pick themselves up when things don’t go their way, stand strong when confronted with cruelty, and remain focused on being their best selves.
Let’s use both old school communication methods and technology to remind our children on a regular basis that they belong, and we think they are awesome. Back to school is the perfect time to start!
I’d love to know what you decide to do. Share your ideas in the comments section.