How to Support Your Child at the Beginning of School Year
Oh, the difficult periods of adjustment! Why does it have to be quite so challenging for us to get settled into a new routine?
At the beginning of each school year, our kids are getting a glimpse into Adult Life - and a feeling that it bears a strange resemblance to Hurdles. As they're running and jumping, the important inner work that's happening is a struggle to understand 1) how well they can do in a new situation, 2) how much Adversity they can overcome, and 3) what they cannot possibly overcome and why.
Kids (just like adults) engage with Adversity in 4 basic ways:
1. Explore/advance/play offense
Kids with sanguine temperament deal with Adversity through exploration, adjustment, and trying to tackle the problem from different angles. This is very important - I'm not talking about being persistent; instead, I'm referring to one's ability to find radically different approaches to solving the same problem (it is also called cognitive flexibility).
2. Be aggressive/play offense
Kids with choleric temperament will try to "brute force" through Adversity by being angry and forceful, and applying pressure to everything and everyone around them.
3. Be emotional/play defense
Melancholic kids will not try to overcome Adversity, but will instead engage a slew of negative emotions - they'll be scared, disappointed, upset, or even crying.
4. Be neutral/play defense
Phlegmatic kids will not attempt to overcome Adversity, but they won't get emotional about it either. They will turn their attention elsewhere or disengage.
By observing your child's reactions, you will easily notice which of the four paths your child takes most often, and in which circumstances. Please remember this - life is infinitely rich and surprising, and all of these reactions are appropriate in the right context. Now and in the future, our children will benefit tremendously if we teach them that we can choose any of these 4 possible reactions (or at least 2-3 of them) depending on the situation. The flexibility this creates allows us to respond to life in the most harmonious way.
If we push our children to reach in just one preferred way, even if it is most convenient to us at the moment, we won't be preparing them for dealing with the infinite variety of life situations that are bound to come up in the future. We can, however, talk to them about the challenges they're facing. We can also offer alternative ways of engaging with these challenges. Combined, doing these two things will build our rapport (or emotional connection) and offer the emotional support that everyone needs in times of change.