It’s the beginning of the new school year with lots of excitement and opportunity in the air. What will this school year be like? Will it be same? What will be different?
I started off the new school year sick. I was knocked down by a bad sinus infection, leaving me sprawled on the couch, unable to move, allowing for too much time to scroll through my Facebook page full of pictures of happy kids on their way to their first day of school. On the one hand, I love this. I get to see all of my friends’ kids, whose pictures are rarely shared on Facebook, and see how much they have grown. On the other hand, it is a great reminder to me that the world of Facebook often doesn’t show us the real picture of what’s going on in our lives.
For me, this is the time of year when I get to see the other side of the happy pictures.
For many of the girls I work with, going back to school creates worry and anxiety. For one, it is because last year she had trouble making friends and she’s worried that this year she’ll find herself eating lunch alone once again. For another girl, it’s the fear of being bullied, as she struggles to balance her desire to be accepted with the fear of appearing needy and clingy. For a third girl, the anxiety centers around going back to school after facing “slut shaming” last year, just because of the body type God gave her.
Every girl has her own story. Each of these beautiful girls is working on learning skills to help create the life she wants and deserves. Their pictures on the first day of school, just like all the ones I saw on Facebook, were most likely smiling and happy.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I want you to take the time during the next few weeks, at the beginning of the new school year, to look more deeply and carefully at your daughter’s world, beyond the picture taken as she set off for her first day of school.
This is an important time for you to create a connection, to ask open-ended, real questions and create a safe space for your daughter to share what is truly going on in her life.
As your daughter goes through adolescence, her life is changing constantly on many levels. Notice if you are always expecting her to be the happy girl from the picture or if you are also allowing space for the other parts of her to be expressed as well.
Take the opportunity of the new school year to once again assure her that you are here for her. You are the anchor in her life, to listen, to hold, to hear and be present, without judgment, without fear of consequences of being honest and vulnerable.
Help your daughter recognize where she is succeeding and where she is struggling, and create a plan together to help her get the life she wants, while knowing she has your support (I know she does. Now let’s make sure she knows it!)
This is the biggest gift you can give your daughter!
Wishing you all a successful new school year and wishing all those celebrating with me a Happy Jewish New Year!