Thought Leaders//

What Your Kids Really Need as They Head Back to School

Fred Rogers had it right all along.

Courtesy of Slumberkins
Courtesy of Slumberkins

It’s that time again. A crispness in the air is beginning to infuse these warm summer days, signaling a turn from fun and relaxation to the anticipation of a new school year. I often find myself remembering all the fun of back-to-school preparation — shopping for the perfect binder, notebook, and pens. After a long summer of spending time with my family, I was ready to get back to all my friends and the excitement of a new class and teacher. Thoughts like, Who will be in my class? Who will I sit by? Who will my teacher be? kept me up as I anxiously awaited the first day of school. While I believe these thoughts continue to factor into our children’s experiences, the world has changed, and our children’s experiences are different as a result.

Every generation looks at their children’s experiences and feels anxiety about how much the world has changed. We hope they will make good choices, have friends, love learning, and be successful. But we know what they’re up against, and for those of us that have watched HBO’s “Euphoria,” we are currently having panic attacks about sending our children into the unsupervised wild of school.

I still remember practicing earthquake drills in school, hiding under my desk and learning about what to do if the building were to fall down in a natural disaster. Nowadays, our children do drills to prepare them for active shooter situations and bombs. What’s it like to grow up in a time when it’s a real possibility that someone might come shoot people in your school? What’s it like to be exposed to content on mobile devices that is not meant for your eyes? What does the growing pressure and importance of technology and digital presence mean for children who are split between that and true presence? How can I ensure my child is tech fluent while avoiding overexposure and hurt along the way? These are questions that parents and caregivers ask, but our children are living.

Why does everything have to be so complex and overwhelming?

Okay, so yes, things are more complex now and it’s definitely overwhelming to think about as an adult. There are more ideas, conversations, options, and stuff out there than ever before. But what hasn’t changed is the human brain and the ways we can work with our minds and bodies. The way we connect with our children and create safety in our relationships with them is the same as it’s ever been. We may have more topics to talk about, but the framework remains unchanged. Honesty and age-appropriate information are key. Although times are different, children’s needs are not.

Fred Rogers had it right back then, and it’s still applicable within our increasingly complex world.

“… If we can bring our children understanding, comfort, and hopefulness when they need this kind of support, then they are more likely to grow into adults who can find these resources within themselves later on.”

Fred Rogers

To guide our children through these changing times, we have to get out of our own way with our big words, lengthy explanations, and anxiety that we trip over as adults. If we connect with our little ones at their level of understanding to comfort and support them, that voice can be internalized and counted on when difficult decisions or hard times come to pass.

Some days that comes easy, other days it feels impossible. That’s why we created Slumberkins — to help parents by giving them tools for addressing important moments along the way. How can I support my child’s worry about a situation I can’t change? My kid was made fun of at school and is deeply hurt. How do I actually help them build up their self-esteem? How am I supposed to talk to a young child about grief and loss? Slumberkins products support parents during opportunities for social learning, allowing them to plant seeds of emotional well-being.

Back to school is an important time in every child’s life, and just as we didn’t know back then, our children will not understand the complex and anxious world they are stepping into. The most important thing that you as a parent or caregiver can do is slow down to connect with your child. Doing so will cultivate an atmosphere of comfort and safety, where learning and love are fostered in the most important and influential relationship they have — with you.

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