As a new school year is set to begin, many kids are feeling anxious about embarking on a new chapter in their lives. Their uncertainty, however, makes it a prime time for them to learn about mental strength--and an opportune time for parents to coach them.

Being mentally strong isn't about pretending they don't feel scared or nervous--it's about taking steps to become their best despite those emotions.

There are some small steps you can take to empower your kids to build the mental muscle they need to reach their greatest potential this school year. Here's how you can help them become mentally stronger as they head back to school:

1. Ask, "What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be This Year?"

Have a conversation with your child about what type of person they'd like to be. Do you want to be Kind? Brave? Athletic? Confident?

Of course, some kids are going to say they want to be "popular." If being the "cool kid" isn't in line with your values, talk about some of the reasons why being popular might not be a top priority.

Create a goal that focuses on your child's character, rather than their reputation.

Instead, talk about wanting to do things that are completely within your child's control. For example, rather than say, "I want to be the smartest kid in my class," establish a goal around being a "hard worker."

Ask, "What does a hard worker do?" or "What does being a brave person look like?" Help your child identify actionable steps they can take to act like the type of person they want to become.

When they take steps to "act" like that person, they'll slowly become it throughout the course of the school year. Of course, it's not about acting fake or copying someone else. It's about changing their behavior first so their thoughts and feelings can follow.

2. Establish Monthly Challenges

It can be tempting to establish a big goal for the school year--like making the baseball team or getting on the honor roll each quarter.

But it's hard to stay focused on a giant goal. Kids (and most adults) stay motivated when they have short-term, manageable goals.

A good way to help kids reach their greatest potential is to help them create a new 30-day challenge each month. Whether they establish a fitness-related goal, like exercising for 30 minutes on school days, or they create academic goals, like studying science for 20 minutes every day, short-term goals can be fun.

Help your kids establish goals that will challenge them--just make sure they aren't setting the goal impossibly high.

Each month, regardless of whether they hit their goal, you can review what went well and how they could improve next time. It's a great way to teach a variety of skills, like how to recover from mistakes and how to persevere through tough times.

You might even want to set monthly challenges for yourself. Then, as a family you can all cheer one another and learn from each other's strategies.

3. Create an If...Then Plan to Address Fear

Whether your child is afraid of getting picked on or they're scared they're not going to understand math, anxiety about the school year is normal.

Rather than say, "That won't happen," or "You'll be fine," in an attempt to temporarily ease your child's fears, help your child create a helpful action plan.

Ask, "If that happens, what can you do?" The solution might involve anything from asking for help to acting brave.

But help your child develop an "if..." plan so they feel equipped to handle their fears. A child who can say, "If I don't understand math, then I will ask my teacher for help," will feel empowered to face their fears head-on.

Build Mental Muscle Over Time

Mental strength is developed slowly over time. So make it an ongoing priority in your home to help your kids build mental muscle.

The more strength they develop, the better equipped they'll be to handle real-world challenges. And, the more likely they'll be to reach their greatest potential.

Published on: Aug 13, 2019
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