A lot of your kids are already finished with the school year. My kids are still going this week. In fact, I’m at school right now picking up my son from his last exam. I’m so happy for him. My daughters will still have a couple more days to go. They are almost done. I can taste summer.

I am so happy that this was a more normal school year. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that my kids were back to in person full time school this year and that masks were finally taken away from them. I have seen all three of their mental health improve from those two changes. My son told us we made the right decision making him go back to school. He sees how good it was for him. He really loved remote school and begged us to let him continue. I followed my parental instincts and knew he needed to get back to school with his teachers and peers. Sometimes our kids don’t know what is best for them.

I learned that my kids need to be in school. We did fine with remote school and hybrid school. We supported each other through it. I just know from observing my kids this year that their mental health is so much better going to school with no mask on. Do I think they got used to the mask? Absolutely. Do I think it prevented illness? I do. However, it is harder to have social interactions with a mask on. It is better for relationships with their teachers and with their peers. I know my son is thrilled to not have to deal with mask acne anymore.

I learned that high school is so much better than middle school. I already knew this from my own experience (and from my husband’s and friend’s), but my son proved this right this year. Middle school is the awkward years. The boys were super immature. His middle school Spanish teacher told me he was too mature for middle school, and I completely agree. I saw my son make his way through middle school as best he could. Now that he is in high school, he is so much happier. The kids all start to mature, and he is taking a bunch of honors classes (which puts him with serious students).

Aside from all the class options he has, there are also so many things he can join. He started out the year playing school soccer and ended the year joining the school football team. I cannot emphasize enough to you to encourage your children to join sports and clubs at school. My friend told me today that busy kids don’t get into trouble, and I totally agree with her. It makes you feel more connected to your school and gives you your people. This is one of the keys to school happiness. I will encourage my daughters to join things in middle school and high school. I haven’t had much luck with Ella but I’m hopeful for next year. Theater takes up a lot of her after school time but I’m hoping she can make time for her school’s drama club, and anything else she would like to join. Lillie is gearing up and is ready to join everything.

I’ve learned that grades are not everything. I have never felt this more than I do this year. I told Ella that her mental health is so much more important to me than her high grades. I would rather her chill out a little than get the high 90’s on her exams. She has exams this week and she is so nervous. They have had a couple years off exams. They are out of practice. I know she will do well.

Ella says she learned to be her own best friend. She’s so good at it. It’s a good lesson for all of us. She teaches me so much. All my children do. I always say that we should talk to ourselves how we talk to our best friends. I’ve worked a lot on that this year. She has made some new friends at school and at theater which makes me so happy. I always say to make new friends and hopefully keep the old friends too. I’ve learned that friendships change and that’s okay too.

I know that my kids need mental health days. I don’t think they should have to be sick to stay home. For example, if Ella is in four shows on a Sunday, she is more than welcome to sleep in and relax on Monday. I told the attendance lady that she needed a day to chill out and she totally understood. That should be an excused absence by the way. I should advocate for that. I think the workplace should build in mental health days too.

My friend said she learned to fight for what she believes in with the school district. I admire her strength, persistence and determination. I have heard parents for years complain about things they would like to see different. I can’t encourage you enough to advocate for that. Write or call your superintendent. Speak at a school board meeting. Meet with your principal and/or the teachers. Don’t just sit with something that bothers you. Find your voice and speak up assertively and politely to the key players. If you are uncomfortable or nervous you will get better with practice. You can also reach out to your spouse or a friend like me to support you through it. There are parent advocates who will attend meetings with you. Kudos to the parents who fought to get rid of masks and go back to full time school. I give them praise for fighting for what they believe in, and I think we should all do that.

A friend told me that she learned to have mindful moments with her children. We are so busy doing all day long. We are not human doings we are human beings. We can’t just do, do, do, all day long. We need moments to be quiet, still, and in peace. We need to give ourselves and our children creative outlets. I love the teachers that find creative ways to teach their students. I often hear Ella tell me she feels like a robot at school. That is the exact opposite of what I want for her. I love that Lillie’s teacher is instilling the love of learning. You can see her passion and compassion for her students ooze out of her. I love when my kids tell me they can tell that their teacher’s care. I love that Ella really enjoyed her family and consumer science class. She learned to sew, and cook, and had so much fun. I love that she sings in her school’s chorus and takes a music class. Those classes are so much more important to me than math class. Writing this blog is so good for me. It’s a creative outlet for me doing something that I love. I feel so much peace and joy as I write this. I hope you and your children have creative outlets.

I witnessed how important connection is with students. The teachers who took time to connect with my kids got more out of them. I love when my children come home telling me something they learned about their teacher. My daughter talked about her social studies teacher almost every day. My mom was telling Ella how she didn’t like Social Studies class, and Ella told her it’s her favorite. I think Ella enjoys learning about history, but I also think she hit the jackpot with her teacher.

I love the responsibility I see my children learning. I have seen them all do their homework daily without my prompting them. I didn’t check on anyone this year. They all got their homework done and they all studied for tests. I helped my 9 year old study but Max and Ella did a lot on their own. I see how they are learning organization and responsibility. I back off more and more each year as they move forward and grow.

I see how much my daughters still love seeing me at school and I’m savoring it. In fourth grade Max stopped getting excited to see me at school. Ella is in 7th grade and Lillie is in 4th grade. They still light up when they see me walk in the room. I am bottling that up and savoring that because it won’t last forever. I am still very involved in both of their schools. I do it for them. I do it for their school. I do it for so many reasons. Seeing them light up when I’m at school is the biggest reason.

I see them learning to overcome hardships. Max had a hard teacher and he rose to the occasion as I knew that he would. Ella struggled with a teacher, and she overcame that adversity. I told her that when you have 8 or so teachers you aren’t going to connect and love all of them. Connecting and loving most of them is a win in my book. Lillie learned so much responsibility this year. She really worked hard in every subject and pushed herself. My kids expect a lot of themselves. I wonder where they got that from.

I am not expecting my kids to love every teacher anymore. I think it is good for them to learn to deal with different personalities. I am strong believer in finding the best fit for your kids in elementary school when they are with the same teacher all day. When you go to middle school, and you have a lot of teachers it is a good way to learn to deal with all different kinds of people. My kids respond the best to a warm nurturing teacher. However, Lillie had a really strict dance teacher this year who is not warm and fuzzy and Lillie said it pushed her to want to do better.

In Summary

  • Being back at school full time in person with no masks has done wonders for my children’s mental health!
  • High school is better than middle school.
  • Join clubs and sports to feel connected and find your people.
  • Grades aren’t everything. Their mental health is more important than the 99.
  • Be your own best friend. Also be open to making new friends. Friendships change every year. Try to make new friends and keep the old ones.
  • Let your kids (and yourself) take a day off.
  • Fight for what you believe in.
  • The teachers who take time to connect with my kids are the classes my kids enjoy the most and perform extra well in.
  • They get more organized and more responsible each year.
  • Having 8 or so teachers helps them learn to deal with a lot of different personalities. This is a great lifelong skill to learn.
  • My girls still love to see me at school. I still enjoy being involved. It increases my home/school link and makes my girls happy!
  • I see them all learning to overcome hardships.
  • Your kids (and you) need peace, quiet and creative outlets. We can’t just do and produce all day long. That is not what it’s all about.

Every year I learn so much with my kids. I can’t wait to see what we all learn next year. Lillie moves on to fifth grade in middle school for the first time. Ella moves on to 8th grade and her last year of middle school. Max moves on to sophomore year of high school. I would love to hear what you or your children learned this school year. Have a wonderful summer.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R

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