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Back-to-School: Balancing Big Feelings

August 21, 2023
By Nancy Fujii

The beginning of a school year can be challenging for kids. Summer break is over, and it's time to focus, follow a schedule, and get organized. While some students may be excited to see friends, meet new teachers, or learn new things, others can feel anxious. No parent wants to see their child struggle, but challenges can help them (and us) grow.

Balancing Big Feelings

Most people want to ensure children feel less anxious when they see they're in distress, so they rush to accommodate their discomfort. But rescuing children from stressful situations can worsen their anxiety as they learn to depend on you to remove their fear, which becomes a coping pattern and hinders their maturity. You won't always be there to relieve their distress, and their anxiety will deepen as they grow.

It's better to be empathetic, help them understand their anxiety, and encourage them to face their fear. You can say, "I know you're scared, and that's okay. I'm here, and I'm going to help you get through this." With time, they'll learn to handle challenging situations, and your child (and you) will become closer to God through your endurance.

". . . the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." (James 1:2-4)

Stories Matter

Want to change how you feel about a situation? First, change how you think about it. Try thinking about how God helps us see the world differently.

As relational image-bearers of Christ, we all desire human connection. Those connections often happen in our shared stories, so talk with your child to express your interest in becoming part of their story.

If they had a challenging day, talk about it, and bear their burden. If they had a great day, celebrate, and encourage them.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

"stir up one another to love . . . meet regularly . . . encourage one another." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Christian perseverance is a community endeavor. God calls us to love Him and love our neighbor. It's in mutual affection for one another and sharing our stories that we persevere and thrive.

Questions for your child could include:

  • Tell me a few things you liked and didn't like about your day. 
  • Who in your class can we pray for?
  • What happened at lunch today? 
  • Tell me one new thing you learned and what made you laugh today. 
  • What was the kindest thing you did for someone today?

Often kids are not facing academic and social demands at home, which can trigger behaviors in school that the teacher will see, but the parents won't. A teacher knows the challenges, successes, and friendships their students have. They are allies who genuinely want what's best for each student.

Good questions to ask teachers include:

  • How is my child doing? 
  • Do you have any concerns about their social or academic skills? 
  • Do they need my help with anything?
Parent Tips
  1. Create a routine to talk with your child about their feelings. 
  2. Kids can pick up on nervous energy, so be positive and calm, expressing faith, perseverance, and joy as your child begins the school year.
  3. Anticipate and trust what God has planned for your child.
  4. Don't put unrealistic expectations of perfection on your child.
  5. Most setbacks are healthy for maturity, so embrace them.
  6. Ensure your student gets proper sleep and eats breakfast before school.
  7. Try to avoid fixing every problem your child experiences. Sometimes kids want to talk about challenges to validate their feelings without someone trying to fix them. 
  8. Talk about changing friendships and how to have REAL (Respectful-Encouraging-Accepting-Loving) God-honoring relationships with others.
  9. Changing teen brains causes mixed thoughts and behaviors, so ask them about school experiences and challenges.
  10. If your child struggles with extreme behaviors about returning to school, talk to their teacher or the principal for guidance and next steps.
Abounding Grace

Parenting is a gradual process of letting go as our children mature. Wherever you are on your parenting journey, God’s grace is sufficient. We can’t be with our children 24/7, but God can. His care and presence are better than anything we can give them.

“God makes all grace abound, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)


Nancy Fujii Bio/Work Experience

Nancy joined CHS in 2021 as a part-time K-12 Christian Counselor. Nancy counsels and teaches in a classroom, small group, and individual setting, helping students understand God and themselves through their identity in Christ. This school year, Nancy will teach a social-emotional Christlike character formation curriculum showing how our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences shape us. Before joining CHS, Nancy co-founded the Family Peace Center, where she continues to serve in the local community helping families build God-centered relationships.

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