Let Them Go Back To School Without You: Is It Your Anxiety or Their's?

It's that time of year again. We are well into summer, camps are winding down, and vacations were had. Check that box - summer is almost done. Now, on to the next parental worry - back to school.    

My child is starting at a new school and I wonder: Will he know anybody in his class? Will he have friends? Can he handle the change? Will he meet grade expectation? How hard will this transition be? All of these are normal thoughts and worries but around this time, schools begin to get emails requesting kids have a particular teacher, be in class with a friend, and other special requests. I have heard that schools don't make teacher assignments public until the end of the summer for this particular reason, which seems to be worsening each year. Although we live in the culture of helicopter parenting and we constantly read about how detrimental it is to the long-term self-efficacy and mental health of our children, most of us nod along and don't identify as helicopter parents because we are just like our neighbors and the way we parent is normal compared to them. A polite email to the principal stating why it is important that your child have a certain teacher or be with friends for ‘carpooling purposes’ is exactly what falls under the parameters of helicopter parenting. It's you and me. And these requests are most often made by the extremely well-intentioned and loving parents who are just doing their best in this unknown world, working to help their kid have a 'fair' shot at success. But, what we know in the psychological literature is that this may work for the short-term but this parenting style in the long-term is majorly unhealthy for our kids.

Bestselling author and psychologist Wendy Mogel promotes "good suffering" which includes stepping back and allowing life to unfold for the kid as it would, without parental involvement. Hold the phone when we feel inclined to call the teacher and step back from the keyboard when just wanting to ‘check-in’ with the school. This prepares kids for dealing with more serious disappointments and difficulties that will absolutely and naturally arise in their life. Now is the time to teach them. It is not a skill they can pick up at a camp a few weeks in high school, it is how we raise them every day starting early in life. It is in these moments, the uncertain times of transition and change, that we show our faith in our children’s ability to manage themselves, teach that the world is safe without us, and learn that they will be okay even when faced with disappointment.

Although walking into a kindergarten class to a sea of new faces can be incredibly scary at first, it allows for the opportunity to meet new friends and navigate how to do so. What kindergartner spends the year friendless? None. And, if that does happen, then there will be a time to intervene and help the child brainstorm the problem together, not create the most utopic scenario possible before an issue even arises. The question really is: how do we as parents manage our own anxiety about sending our kids off into the world so as to not get in their way?

Parenting in this day and age has become riddled with an anxious style - always preemptively creating the best case situation for our child. But, unfortunately what we have seen is how this anxiety is becoming internalized in our kids. Dr. Julie Lythcott-Haims writes about this from the perspective of Dean of Freshman at Stanford.  In her book, How to Raise An Adult, Dr. Lythcott-Haims reports that these so called adults come to Standford having achieved high SAT scores, with multiple AP credits, and bearing an application filled with extracurriculars but they don't know how to work out issues with their roommate, accept a B or lower in a class, or deal with unstructured activities. And, worse their coping skills are junk and therefore experience higher rates of depression and anxiety. So, as we move towards September, step back and allow room for you and your child’s normative anxiety. Listen, support, and empathize with your little one but don’t jump to fix the problem. Anxiety is just a feeling that can be tolerated and worked through, not something that needs to be solved. Your child will thank you in adulthood.


 End of Summer Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho

I found this recipe online at http://www.cannellevanille.com and it has become a staple in my kitchen this summer.

serves 4 to 6

2+ cups diced seedless watermelon
2 medium very ripe tomatoes, diced
1/4 diced small red onion
2 tablespoons almond flour
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon finely grated garlic
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled, for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil, for garnish
Fresh herbs of your choice, for garnish. I have a ton of mint in the garden and mostly use that both in the gazpacho and as a garnish.

 Puree the first eight ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate the soup for 1 hour. The soup may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Stir before serving, as it tends to separate.

Serve the chilled soup with crumbled feta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and fresh herbs.