I know how nerve racking first days can be! The first day of school each year, the first day of a new dance class or sport, the first day of a new school, the first day of living in a new place, all of the firsts can be very stressful and exciting all at once! I can recall many of these firsts growing up and in almost every scenario I can recall someone who showed kindness to me through a warm smile, a high-five, a hand shake, or a plate of cookies. The feeling of receiving such kindness from strangers to this day is one of my favorite feelings. At the same time, I can remember some instances of the opposite greeting from someone that was unkind and unwelcoming. Why is it always easier for us to remember the unkind? This clearly provoked opposite feelings and most times these actions instigate anxiety and feelings of not belonging. The negative feelings always seem to override the positive. It’s important to remind ourselves and our children that almost everyone is just as nervous/worried/anxious as they are. We are not alone in feeling a little crazy before the first of anything.
One of the hardest things to see is your own child being treated unkindly by a friend, peer, or adult. If you’re like me, my first reaction is to throw on my boxing gloves and tell whoever is being mean to meet me outside! It has taken a lot of practice to remember compassion for others in these cases. I remind my kids that we don’t know what other people are going through or what their experiences are so even if they are unkind to us, it is not ok to respond to them in the same way. It’s best to take a deep breath, send them some positivity, and then walk away.
I sent one of my daughters off to camp and just by the way she was greeted by other camp attendees when we arrived I felt like I was leaving her in a shark tank full of shark bullies. I was terrified to leave her there, but I knew she would figure it out. They did end up being bullies, but she ended up finding someone that showed her kindness in the group that she connected with and together they made it through the week.
We are also not perfect, I am first to admit that my actions and/or my children’s have not always been kind either. We all have good and bad days. It is important to practice self-compassion when this happens. Each moment is a chance to do better than the last.
So, as the first day of school closes in on us, I am challenging myself and my kids to practice kindness because it is a value that matters most of all! You get back what you put out there, so if you are kind to others, you will get kindness in return! My favorite quote about kindness comes from Bob Kerrey, “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change”. I truly believe that!