I sent my oldest son off to middle school this year. It is a big step (for both of us) and one that I hope he is ready for.
As we prepared for the new school year, we made sure that he had new back to school clothes and all the school supplies he needed.
Middle school can be a rough time though and I knew that I couldn’t just head to the store and buy something that would prepare him to deal with all of the situations he may encounter. There was one conversation I knew we needed to have before the first day of school.
In middle school, everyone feels a bit awkward. We all have differences but sometimes those differences make it hard for us to connect with each other.
I want my kids to excel academically this year, sure, but more important than that, I want them to learn to feel empathy for the people around them and develop strong emotional intelligence.
A few things to talk about before school starts:
- Make an effort to connect with other people during the day. Everyone is a little nervous starting a new school year. I want to make sure my kids know they can reach out to other people rather than waiting for someone to reach out to them. Chances our, the other person will be thrilled that someone noticed them.
- Something as simple as a smile can help someone have a better day. Getting in the habit of smiling at people as come into contact with them throughout the day is so important. I challenge my kids to smile at as many people as they can during the day.
- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s tempting to frame the way we look at the world based on how it impacts us. Changing that viewpoint and getting in the habit of thinking of other people and considering their feelings makes us better people. Tell your kids to watch for anyone who may be struggling or having a hard day and look for ways they can help. The practice of thinking about other people turns it into a habit and changes who we are.
Kleenex® brand sponsored a social experiment and workshop led by Lori Nathanson, PhD, and Shauna Tominey, PhD, researchers at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, to showcase how a gesture of care and other pro-social strategies can help middle school students face the challenges of a new school year. They found that when we give kids the tools to commit to care, they will, confidently. Check out the full video here. It’s well worth watching with your new middle school student.
It can be a bit of a challenge for kids to learn to see needs around them. I focus on the basics:
- Watch. Get in the habit of observing people and really seeing them. You’ll be able to notice when there is a need for your help.
- Listen. Spend more time listening than talking. People like other people who show an interest and genuinely listen.
- Feel. Sometimes people’s words don’t match the way they are feeling. We can learn to be in tune to the needs and moods of our friends so we know that something is wrong, even when they say they are fine.
As a mom of a child with some special needs, I hope that other parents will have this conversation with their kids and teach the importance of empathy. Everyone struggles sometimes and the more people we have in this world who are willing to reach out and show that they care, the better the world will be.
Kleenex® brand is encouraging consumers to share Kleenex® Care all year long with loved ones because all it takes is one soft tissue to make a difference.
So this year, send your kids off to school with everything they need and encourage them to be a friend even when it pushes them a bit out of their comfort zone.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.