I can’t believe the summer is just about over for most school-aged children! It’s back to school time! This is a very exciting time. As children get geared up and ready to go back into the classroom, there are some things that you can do to prepare them to have a great first day, making it a triumphant start to another year of academic challenge and promise! As a mom to two sweet little girls and a former teacher, here is my list of things to do for the sweet and spicy girls–from pre-k through twelfth grade– you are sending to school. They can’t get enough love and encouragement from us. They need us to consistently fill them up as the messages surrounding them have the potential to deconstruct their self image and deplete their self esteem. Even the most confident girl can use a reminder that she’s enough, just as she is. So, check the list then grab your beautiful girl and get her ready for her first day of school, the Beautiful Project way!
1. Make her a special breakfast.
This doesn’t have to be an elaborate Shoney’s spread. Small, simple gestures done with a sincere heart express so much consideration and love. If you can, go the extra step to sit down and have the meal with her. You can make her her usual bowl of oatmeal, but this time throw a few chocolate chips in it. If she likes toast in the mornings, fashion the jelly into a smiley face. If she says she doesn’t like to eat breakfast, give her a granola bar for later and ask her to at least sip a cup of cool water. Give her something nutritious for the start of her day.
2. Tell her something that you like about her.
Random. I know, it seems so random. But, you have to think about the culture that they live in. Social media has changed the language we use around relationships with other people: we follow, like, tag and friend each other, except that none of that really means what it implies. Girls are putting much too much emphasis on how many likes they get on an Instagram post or how many followers they are accumulating, but what for their uniqueness? What about their character? So, tell her that you like the way she laughs. Tell her that you think she is the coolest 4th grader you have ever met. Tell her that she has the potential to change her class this year with her innate kindness and consideration for others. Tell her that she is going to make the ground shake as she steps through the halls of her high school wearing that bright, beautiful smile. Help her to connect to the things that make her uniquely herself and see what happens.
3. Let her choose what she will wear that day.
Yes. Let her do it. With the exception of a few, our girls choose things that make them look good and feel good without compromising their character and values. This will boost her confidence. Mismatched socks? Plaid and polka dots? Close your eyes tight and let her express herself. So long as her clothes are clean and she feels good about herself, let her wear what she wants to wear that day. If you have a girl who wants to wear something that is too revealing or betrays her innocence and pawns her off as something she’s not, then there are some deeper conversations that need to happen. In the meantime, gently lead her to choose something else but, as much as possible, let her choose how she will represent herself that day.
4. Make sure she has the materials she needs.
From the class list, to paper and pencil, students often have a few essentials that they are asked to bring the first week of school. It is embarrassing to show up unprepared, as you watch all of the other students excitedly and diligently hand in their portion of goods. Do what you can to get what she needs and if you can, grab a little something extra for someone who may not be able to get her girl what she needs. Also, check your local school district for giveaways. If you are in need of some assistance, this would be a good place to show up and receive materials in preparation for the first day of school.
5. Write her a love letter.
This can be as short or as elaborate as you deem she needs. And they all need one. I’ve never seen a girl, from the baller to the ballerina, who did not appreciate a little love note, telling her her value in your eyes. Write the note and place it somewhere she will come across it later in the day.
6. Tell her that you love her.
It’s amazing what confidence springs up from hearing, “I love you,” especially when it is delivered by someone who pauses intently to look you in your eyes to ensure that you not only hear them, but with enough care and intention that they mean every word and syllable of that sentence. Even though she may respond as if she’s heard it a million times, tell her again. When she goes to school, she’ll be faced, potentially all day, with opportunities to doubt that she is liked. She will question if she is good enough, cute enough, dressed well enough. Walking out of your door, down to the bus stop or into your car, give her a chance to walk a little taller. Send her off in love.
7. Encourage her.
All of the other things on this list are meant to encourage her, but I felt that it was important, in addition to these things, to conspicuously encourage her to be brave in this new chapter of her academic career. She may walk around your house like she is the greatest thing ever, leaving her clothes around for you to collect, inconsiderately taking up too much time in the bathroom morning after morning, but her classroom and school halls are a different stage. She needs you to pump her up and feather her wings so that she remembers that she can fly. Encourage her to sit close to the front of the room, if she has a choice in where she will sit. Encourage her to introduce herself to her teachers and peers. Encourage her to join organizations that suit her interests and strengths, as well as try out new things that she is not sure she will enjoy at all. Encourage your elementary aged girl to ask questions if she is confused about something. Encourage her. She needs it.
8. Ask her about her day and listen to what she says.
I know, I know. Most of the time you ask students about their day and they respond with one word answers. So seemingly uninterested in talking about their day, they try to ward you off with enough information to get you to move on. But this is learned behavior. When children are small they want to tell you everything! They want you to answer a battery of questions as they rattle them off one by one, often following that up with their own ideas about the answers, followed by more questions! If your girl is small, continue to cultivate healthy conversation with her by asking her lots of questions about her day, listening when she responds and asking follow up questions where appropriate. Likewise, be willing to answer her questions or ask her for more time to talk in depth later. If you have a girl who is older and says very little, don’t be fooled; she still wants to talk. You’ll just have to work a little harder and ask the right questions. Here are some to give a try: Tell me about the new people you met today. How was it seeing your old friends? Did they miss you? What was your favorite part of the day? Why? What was the hardest part of your day? Why? What are your teachers like? This conversation with you could be the perfect end to her first day.