As adults, we largely get to choose our environments.
We can spend our time with people we like, people who help us thrive.
Our children, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. Instead, they’re thrown into a pressure cooker, locked into closeness with a wide range of personalities that can bring out the best or worst of humanity. It’s a rite of passage, and very few of us finish our school years without some painful experiences and scars.
It’s impossible to create a perfect environment – not when we live in a broken world – but we can make school a better environment, especially after a stressful and lonely COVID year. Here are 5 things to tell your child to foster more warmth and connection.
1. Many of your classmates are hurting. Many face problems that you’d never guess based on their appearance. Today’s students face adult-sized heartaches. What amplifies their heartaches (and stress) is not having strong support systems in place, or being in environments where people act self-absorbed, dismissive, or rude.
Chances are, over the summer, someone in your class lost a parent, a sibling, or a grandparent. Someone learned that their parents are getting divorced. Someone got betrayed by a best friend or kicked out of a friend group. Someone had an injury or a surgery that puts them out of their favorite sport. Someone is depressed and wrestling with dark thoughts or anxiety. Someone got a scary diagnosis, and they’re not sure what it means.
You never know what your classmates are facing, and it shouldn’t take knowing their problems to be an uplifting influence in their life. Assume upfront that everyone has struggles, and if you knew their full story, you’d have a heart for those struggles. You’d never want to make their bad situation feel worse.