"The two most powerful words when we are in struggle: “me too.”
With school now in swing for a few weeks now, for many the honeymoon period of excitement may have worn off. Mornings that were filled with excitement can start to drag. Anxiety can even set in the night before, asking if there is school tomorrow.. starting to talk about not wanting to go... or even just tossing and turning. And the mornings can be filled with slow movement and digging heels into the very idea of going to school or doing anything to get ready to go. Thinking can become entrenched in "Don't want to go" thinking negating every positive experience.
This can be a perplexing, frustrating and difficult time for parents, teachers and kids. Especially so when pick up is met with, "Wait, can't I stay a little longer!" In the absence of anything majorly negative happening at school there are lots of options to navigate these situations.
Often our first gut reaction is to make a rational argument and appeal to all the positive experiences. "You like school.... You love Ms. Smith." Often met with the exact opposite response... "No I don't, I hate it." further entrenching thinking in black and white negative thinking.
We then might try to appeal to the "You're a big kid" argument. Or "All the other kids are lining up.." "How old are you again?" For some kids this may be motivating, however for many, this can be interpreted as "You're not good enough right now." "You're not meeting my expectations." And for the kids who interpret those phrases in this way, even though not the intention, they can be distressing and make them feel increased incompetence, which turns into more resistance.
Another powerful option is available. "Me too". Sometimes we forget that there is comfort in knowing other people feel the way we do, and by recognizing that people feel the way we do, we have better standing to offer options and different ways to think about a situation. "Me too" opens the doors and takes the pressure off any action.
Kiddo: "I don't want to go to school."
Parent: "Me too. Sometimes I feel the same way. That I don't want to do anything."
Parent: "I remember when I didn't want to go to school. My mommy put a note in my lunch box. It made going a little easier."
Parent: "I wonder if there is something I can put in your lunch box...."
Solutions and ideas might not be found that day and that's ok. By joining in on the discomfort a foundation is being set for collaboration and acceptance for what the kiddo is currently feeling.
For kiddos who struggle putting their feelings into words, drawing emotions and giving them the words ("Your face tells me you are sad.") can help move understanding forward.