Helping Our Kids Be Confidently Uncertain

The start of a new school year is here. This transition naturally creates a sense of uncertainty and sometimes anxiety for our kiddos (and maybe for you, too).

How do we help our children, students, and clients navigate uncertainty? 

A normal tendency is to try to remove any elements of uncertainty. Take them to back to school night. Introduce them to their teacher. Buy them school supplies so they are prepared. Make sure they know how to find their desk. Discuss which of their friends are in their new class.

These are good options and we want our kids to feel as secure as possible when they start their new school year or really when they try anything new at all.

But there’s more to it…

What can change when we focus on instilling in our children that they can handle feeling uncertain instead of focusing on removing the uncertainty?

Here are three tips to help kids be confidently uncertain: 

1. Normalize the experience of uncertainty and their emotions.

Many kids are nervous during the first few days of a new school year or when they try something new. They are not alone in the experience.

2. Discuss the things they do know about the first day of school and the things they don’t know about the first day of school.

(Hint: Make the “don’t know” list longer than the “do know” list.)

The belief that knowing everything will give them a sense of security sounds good AND it’s not possible.

How do we really figure out what we don’t know? We show up, have the experience, and discover the answer.

For example: “I don’t know if my teacher is going to be nice.” The only way to figure this out is to go to school and get to know the teacher.

3. Focus on helping them build their problem solving abilities.

When they bring up a “What if” for example, “What if no one wants to sit by me at lunch?”, avoid the natural pull to try to reassure them by solving the problem for them or by dismissing it as not possible.

Instead ask questions that engage their problem solving muscles and help them build confidence:

  • What could you do or who could you ask for help if no one wants to sit with you?
  • How likely is it that no one will want to sit by you?
  • How can you handle it if you do eat lunch alone the first day?

Cheering you on throughout this new school year!

What is the Emotion Guide Collective?

The Emotion Guide Collective is our membership community for parents, educators, counselors and other helpers who guide kids aged 4-12 through emotions.

We’re co-creating a knowledge base of real-world experience, practical learning, and creative ideas so you have a place to get support and trusted answers to your questions.

Together, we’re creating a world where children grow up loving themselves.

Your Turn

If you’d like to be part of discussions like the one above, we’d love for you to join us inside the Emotion Guide Collective.  You can request your invitation here. 

Read more:

The Emotion Guide Journey Map

One Key to Understand Children’s Meltdowns and Help Them Grow

What’s the Impact of Creating an Emotional Language?