These August memes pretty much sum up what I have been feeling this past week. I can't believe summer vacation days are winding down and another school year is about to start. My husband is an 8th grade teacher, so he has had to already start back with teacher meetings and next week my kids will start back.
In many of my sessions with clients, we have been discussing the upcoming school year. The majority report similar feelings-nervousness and excitement. Students look forward to seeing many friends again, having activities start back up, and getting out of the house. They dread early mornings, lots of homework, pressure, and feeling judged. In looking back on my school days, I also felt similar emotions, but not to the extent many feel now.
I typically only work with ages ten and up, but, across the ages, the feeling of being judged is very high! Many schools state zero tolerance for bullying but the bullies are smart and it regularly happens. Also, students feel judged even when that is not there peers' intentions. Due to social media, we invite ourselves to be judged even more than in the past although if we don't have it, we are judged in a different way.
I want to challenge everyone this year to talk to their kids about if they feel judged and if they are judging others. What type of comments affect them? Do they pay attention to how their comments affect others? What are non verbal signs that their comments affected others negatively? Are we sharing positives and complimenting others when appropriate? The majority of people like to hear good things about themselves, so we should share those freely. If we do provide a negative comment, what purpose is it for? Constructive criticism to help someone grow and learn is good, calling out others to boost ourselves up is not. If you are reading this and thinking, surely my kid is not judging others, you may be surprised. We do it often as adults too. We need to give some extra attention to our actions/words and their impacts.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.