As the summer winds down, I am sure you share the same emotions I have as a parent. The summer months are great for spending time with family and friends, hanging out at the beach, and reading that novel that’s been in the queue for years. It’s also a time when we long for the routine of school, as kids and parents tend to wear on each other as September approaches. It’s the late August dichotomy that we as adults struggle to reconcile.
Sadness about the end of summer, excitement for a new school year, uncertainly over being new—all of these emotions are in the mix with school just a fortnight away.
Reflecting on this summer, one of the highlights was seeing the movie “Inside Out” with my twelve-year-old. I am no movie critic, and with two kids in the house running from one activity to another, the movie theater is not a familiar place, but I am glad I had the chance to see this one. You can watch the trailer or read the reviews online, but it’s a must see for any parent or teacher. It’s a story about an eleven year-old girl who just moved and is starting a new school. The main characters in the movie are actually her emotions—joy, sadness, fear, disgust, anger—and these emotions are caught in a situation where they are confused, frustrated, and simply making outrageous mistakes. It’s a story of loss, excitement, sadness, and joy, and—as a nearly 40-year-old father raising children—this movie certainly struck a chord.
Without being a spoiler, the moral of the story is to embrace your emotions as a human being. As adults, we know how difficult it is to control, accept, deal with, and face our emotions, so imagine what it’s like for an adolescent? Their bodies are growing, their minds are developing, and their friends are changing, so thoughts and emotions are not only wide-ranging but also overwhelming.
How do we help our students and children cope with the confusing feelings of the tween years? First and foremost, model healthy behavior. Show your child that it’s OK to experience emotions. Let them know that as an adult, you also have confusing, conflicting emotions that sometimes sit with us and have no obvious resolution.
Secondly, encourage your children to create their own life story. This is a phrase I try to live by, and it simply means that we have the ability to control what we project into the world. Sometimes adolescent life can be filled with bumps in the road—a low grade, loss of a grandparent, a changing circle of friends—but we all choose how we respond to situations. As ‘tweeners’ slowly but surely develop confidence and figure out where they fit in the world, they need our encouragement and support in these important moments; what they say and how they act in the face of emotional events shape them as people and influence those around them. Teach them the power of choice—inspire them to create their story in a positive, healthy light.
Soak-up the remaining days of summer. Be sure to gather school supplies with your children, review schedules, and finish summer reading. Most important, though, pay attention to the emotional intelligence of your child. Model positive, enthusiastic behavior, and stay the course with your children through the ups and downs of their growing years. And, don’t forget to watch Disney’s latest hit movie! See you all in September, and here’s to a fantastic school year!