Last year, everything changed. 

The pandemic’s arrival altered life as we knew it, forcing us to pare down to the essentials while businesses, churches, and schools shuttered their doors indefinitely. The uncertainty left us fearful, and the constant vigilance of keeping everyone safe and healthy while maintaining work, our homes, our kids’ academic success, and our mental health left us beyond exhausted. 

It was a lot. 

But as we enter a new school year, we are hopeful. While things aren’t exactly as they were before the pandemic descended, a lot of us are feeling closer to normal than we’ve experienced in a long while. And with the return to our usual rhythms, we might find our kids are opening up to us more now that they have the emotional capacity to do so. 

Whether your kids are the chatty kind or the silent type, you can anticipate your kids will feel all kinds of things this upcoming school year. Here are some conversation topics you can anticipate having with your kids:

Learning isn’t always easy. Prepare your kids to expect not to know every answer. Remind them that they won’t be good at everything right away, and that school is the place they’re meant to be challenged and learn something new. 

A fear of fitting in. Your kid may have spent last year in the familiarity of home. Or their friend group dynamic may have changed. Whatever the case, help your anxious kid navigate their desire to fit in by reinforcing their identity—remind them they are great the way they are and that they already have a place where they belong, and that’s right at home. 

Focus on what is in your control. There will be many things your kid will face at school that they have no influence over, but what they can control is their effort and how they treat other people. Use this time to talk to your kid about what true kindness is—respect for themselves and others—and what to do when someone isn’t showing kindness to them. 

Homesickness. Kids spent a lot of time at home last year and may find themselves missing home way more than they normally would once they go back into a typical school setting. This conversation is an opportunity for you to build trust by reminding your kid that you will always come back for them and that there are other caring adults in their Iives they are safe with. 

Feeling unsafe. Hopefully, your kid won’t find themselves in a position where they don’t feel safe. But if they do, you want to have built a foundation with your kid before this point, reminding them that they can come to talk to you about anything no matter what. Remind your kids that families may have surprises for each other, but they don’t keep secrets from each other. 

Navigating change. Drive home the idea to your kid that change isn’t always a bad thing—we can miss what used to be, but be excited for what’s to come. Remind your kid that humans are capable of feeling different feelings all at once. 

These are just a few conversations you can expect to encounter, but these definitely won’t be all of them. Remember to approach every conversation with curiosity, patience, and grace as you learn to navigate the changes—and the emotions that go with them—together.