Back-to-school season typically brings a flood of emotions—from the excitement and anticipation of learning who your teacher is, to reuniting with friends once again, to anxiety or fear that comes with a new school environment, making new friends or adjusting your morning routine. It’s no secret that this year is going to look and feel very different for students, teachers and parents alike.
Parents have the greatest opportunity to shape their child’s outlook in the days leading up to the start of the school year. Taking a positive yet informative approach to helping your child adjust—whether you’re starting out with distance learning, switching to a new homeschool routine or entering the classroom in August—is paramount to easing their worry and helping them adapt.
Help her develop her own confidence.
At Girl Scouts, our mission is to develop girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. We believe confidence is one of the most important attributes a girl can learn, and it starts when she’s young.
Some kids are naturally confident, not afraid of tackling challenges head-on and ready to talk to anyone. But for many kids, developing confidence takes practice. Start by issuing a challenge, appropriate to your child’s age and developmental skills. Simple tasks like making a bed, reading and helping with a recipe, practicing a sport or trying something new helps children foster the ability to work through struggles and develop their confidence.
As you begin the school year, encourage your child to take smart risks. No, we’re not talking about repelling off the side of your house—simple acts like learning to raise your hand to ask questions in the classroom or trying out for the robotics team take courage. When you talk with her about the value of trying (and even failing), you’re helping her learn to take risks and developing her confidence to be a leader.
Adopt a growth mindset.
Growth mindset is our ability to teach ourselves to grow through our situations, challenges, efforts and attitudes. A fixed mindset is just the opposite: We’re either good at it or we’re not, we stick to what we know and our potential is pre-determined. Fostering a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset starts with our ability to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.
Whether it’s a new school setting, a new online learning system or a new school drop-off routine, everything about this fall is a ripe space to challenge both your, and your girl’s, mindset. Give your brain time to learn. Even before you hit “the first day,” create a space, structure and routine to start adapting to the new normal. For some kids, that may mean practicing wearing a mask; for others that may mean learning to log onto a computer, use a mouse and record on a video device. Stop saying “my child can’t do that,” and begin by introducing new routines in safe, short settings. Leave space for your child to ask questions and to work through the struggle. If they show discomfort or anxiety, ask questions and help them problem-solve real solutions.
When the school year starts, be intentional about asking questions about her day. What challenged her? Rather than praising the outcome, praise the way she approached the challenge—for example, “I’m so proud of your persistence. You took the time to read and understand the question your teacher was asking.” This helps your child recognize that the task or approach to a problem is often more important that what happened as a result.
Foster a love of learning.
In Girl Scouts, girls experience a variety of age-appropriate activities that enable them to discover values, skills and the world around them; connect with others in a multicultural environment; and take action to make a difference in their world. These activities are designed to be girl-led, cooperative and hands-on—processes that create high-quality experiences conducive to learning.
Apply this “secret sauce” to your child’s in-school and out-of-school learning. Give her the opportunity to take the lead, whether she’s choosing which subject she’s tackling first in the day or what book she wants to read in the evening, girls thrive when they learn to make choices and take on decision-making responsibility.
Parents play an essential part of learning—you’re the key to creating a cooperative learning environment. So just what is cooperative learning? It’s not about the ability to share a toy; cooperative learning brings together children with varying levels of ability to learn through a variety of activities. Teachers often apply this technique in a classroom by grouping students together on an activity, then rotating students around through stations.
At home, pair up siblings, or invite friends to take part in a learning and discovery process. Girl Scout troops experience cooperative learning with girls of varying grade levels, and often schools, by coming together to learn about a topic and earn badges (from learning about automotive engineering and civic engagement to exploring the stars, caring for animals and becoming good stewards of our environment).
Children are multi-modal learners. Giving your child space to learn by doing and get “hands-on” with an activity carve out moments for you to step back, observe, and watch them grow as they learn. Be their biggest fan by encouraging them along the way. As a parent, it can be hard to watch your child struggle as they learn something new. Resist the temptation to jump in and help, or, worse, do it for them. When she’s tasked with a project, help her gather the tools, ask about her approach and then step back. Give your child free range to tackle the assignment on her own.
Get involved in something other than school.
Kids need time and opportunities to just be kids—and the mind grows tremendously through play. Youth who participate in programs that promote developing a strong sense of self, teach challenge-seeking and cultivate positive values show stronger academic performance and school engagement compared with those who do not. When students are more self-aware and confident about their learning capabilities, they try harder and persist in the face of challenges.
Organizations like Girl Scouts come alongside parents and schools to equip girls with social-emotional learning opportunities that in turn benefit girls in the classroom setting and beyond. Outside organizations foster spaces for increased creativity, teamwork, problem solving, learning and resolving differences, developing healthy relationships and more. Informal learning environments are just as important to your child’s development as an academic setting.
Girl Scouts provides a space for the whole family to spend quality time together. With hundreds of activities and a low annual membership fee of only $25 per girl (or adult member), Girl Scouts has unmatched value. Learn more at gsnetx.org/join.
Promoted content and photos courtesy of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.