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Talking About Individuality - Preparing for Back-to-School

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

It’s that time of year again.

Children are heading back to school.

Whether you adhere to conventional schooling, homeschooling or unschooling, the new cycle of learning is beginning.

While so much of what we once considered as, “day-to-day,” is up in the air, the rites involved with preparing for the upcoming year might serve to establish a semblance of normalcy.

Though, with everything else we are juggling, it’s hard to view "Back-to-School" in a vacuum, the social and political landscape are sure to have some form of influence on the evolving experience.

Maybe. Definitely.

We’re all more aware and more attuned, to the undercurrents that were once taboo and unspoken in ordinary conversation.

Specific to education, we have an opinion on how schools rose to the occasion over the last two years, or failed to respond to the needs of their students, on every spectrum and scale one can think of.

Which begs the question, how do we define success, this year?

For the parents who are worried if whether their young ones are going to fit in, the alternate and more effective focus, might be to provide your children with the tools to confidently stand out.

Whatever their current and evolving opinions, positions, beliefs, standards, or otherwise… give them the language to communicate them, and to hold their ground.

Have the conversations, that give your children explicit permission, to stand strong in their individuality.

Ensure that each child understands, who they are, as they are evolving and maturing, is enough.

It’s a difficult balance to strike, teaching children to honour themselves and their individuality, while also adhering to rules and stipulations that signal the requirement to conform. It’s a bit of trial and error, for parents and children alike.

A few metrics to keep in your back pocket:

  • 70% of individuals who experience a mental health concern, received an initial diagnosis before the age of 18 (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021 - link provided below).

  • The rate of misdiagnosis in many cases, especially in relation to ADHD and other behavioural-focused concerns is over 20% (Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 2017 - link provided below). *This percentage is conservative and may be significantly higher, depending on the specific diagnosis in question.

Children need the tools to respond accordingly when they are in situations that require them to adaptively counteract the pressure to cave in and conform, regardless of whom that source of pressure is coming from.

As you focus on getting everyone ready for this upcoming school year, recognize that what children need the most, especially given the current social and political landscape, is their voice.

Value their voice.

Those metrics are alarming. Though I’m not sure how teaching my children to value their individuality correlates with whether or not my child might develop, or be misdiagnosed with a mental health disorder, this year!?

When children know their feelings and their voices have value, they have a better foundation from which to speak up when others encroach on their boundaries, sense of personal safety and security.

They are better equipped to identify and articulate the emotions that they will inevitably experience, during the course of the school year, enabling parents and guardians to respond, accordingly.

When children have the language to communicate effectively, their wants, beliefs and desires, they are better equipped to make the right decisions, understand when to involve a parent, or an adult, they are better able to determine who they share their time and energy with, and they are better able to bound back when others go out of their way to hurt them and make them feel small.

The best preparation you can give each child, your child, as they get ready for back to school, is giving them permission to stand firm in who they are, and providing them the language, the communication toolkit, to align their big emotions, with their words.

Celebrate and honour their individuality, rise to their defence, and give them the tools they need to support, protect and empower themselves.

Articles referenced in this blog:

More insight on rates of misdiagnosis of ADHD and other behavioural disorders? Check out my thesis:

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