One of the deepest cries in the heart of every parent is for their child to be accepted by others. Acceptance and belonging, the most fundamental need for all of us, drive so much behaviour. Children long to see the smiles of friends when they arrive at school on Monday morning, to know they will have a buddy on the playground, and to be invited to birthday parties.  

I’ll never forget my daughter’s first day of high school.  She was dressed and ready to go with her backpack and her new clothes.  Acceptance and belonging clearly a high priority.  When she returned home and I asked her how it went, she told me in the hallway, between classes, she fell.  Now, this is my coordinated, athlete child.  She fell down in the hallway.  O dear!  My heart sunk!  Then, something happened that made me so proud, she said, “But I just laughed and everyone else laughed with me.  It happens to everyone, Mom.”  I’m pretty sure I would not have handled it that well.  In fact, I can remember the shame of falling in the hallways in Grade 8 and it still burns in my throat.  We are all trying so hard to fit in.

It is at this time of the year when children must exercise their muscles to adapt to a new classroom, make new friends, and adjust to the changes that happened over the summer.  New developmental challenges await them.  They may feel afraid.

The journey to selfhood is important and the testing ground is in belonging.  Do we fit in?  Do we have friends?  Our fear is: if I cannot be loved for who I am, then ‘who I am’ might be flawed.  We all have that fear and we see it emerge in children as their sense of selfhood emerges. 

Children are working hard to “figure out who they are” and ensure they “fit in” and it seems to heighten around Grade 4 and continue through puberty.  All of the sudden they won’t participate in a previous passion because it might not be cool.  They misbehave at home because they feel under pressure at school.  They withdraw and you can’t understand why they don’t want to spend time with you.  Nighttimes become a battle ground to get to sleep because children are bravely stepping out in new ways.  Or maybe they are in the car with you, and as you pull into the driveway, they drop their head into their hands and sob.  

Ask me how I know this happens…it has all happened to me…maybe even this week!

What they need most during those times to protect their hearts is at least one adult who is ‘crazy about them!’  If there are more, even better!  Parents and teachers can work together to let kids know they are safe.  And trust me, this message doesn’t always get through in the first couple weeks of school.  It takes time and patience and a deep faith that it will work out.

At the end of the day, the journey to a deep sense of worthiness is a faith journey.  It is about being a part of something much bigger than yourself.  It is cultivating the belief that…

A faith practice can encourage your child to know they are ‘enough’ just the way they are! Confidence becomes deeply rooted and soon they can laugh at their flaws and be sincere about their vulnerabilities.  That’s a healthful place.

However, sometimes children are experiencing childhood anxiety.  The research says that betweeen 2-27% of children experience childhood anxiety, but only 6% are treated.  While children definitely are resilient, the research shows excellent results when children receive interventions for childhood anxiety, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or mindfulness training.  Please know that these resources might be well worth investigating if your child is experiencing debilitating anxiety.

This week, how can you give your child the message, “I’m crazy about you!” in a way that is meaningful to them!  Journal about how you feel when you need to stand in the gap when your child experiences the first school-year bumps.  What can you celebrate about the new friendships and challenges this year?  How can you continue to develop a positive attitude together?  At the end of the day, can you both remember that the hands that created the stars hold your heart.

Thanks for joining me for coffee!  I am grateful for our community of parents and educators making a difference for children.

For the sake of the children,