It’s officially back-to-school time. Once again, the kiddos are transitioning from a summer of freedom to having to get up early, be on time, sit still, listen up and pay attention. And every year as the academic demands grow, it doesn’t necessarily get easier for them.
But let’s be real here, the kiddos aren’t the only ones getting stressed out by the change from the loosey-goosey summer schedules to the time-to-get-serious-again demands of the fall. You’ve got your own life to return to in addition to discovering that your job description has once again expanded to include things like Carpool Organizer, Homework Helper, PTA President, Traffic Cop and Lunch Box Packer.
The awesome news is that the same practices you can use to keep yourself from becoming a total basket case are tools that you can also share with your kids to help manage their back-to-school fears and anxiety. Two birds, one stone. It’s called mindfulness and it’s surprisingly simple.
Mindfulness is the practice of consciously directly your awareness to the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations you’re experiencing in the moment so that you can meet them with compassion and acceptance rather than judgment. Basically, it boils down to recognizing that we’re human and being okay with that — an excellent practice for us all, especially our future generation.
5 Tips for A Mindful Back-To-School Transition
1. Talk about it. Remember that your whole household is going through a big transition. Set aside time to talk about the fears and challenges each of you is dealing with. In doing so, you’ll foster a healthier way of processing emotions for everyone in your home. Start a conversation and then follow up regularly. Try to involve each other in the process of confronting both the ups and downs of life so that you can learn and grow together. Approach whatever comes up in these conversations with compassion. Remind each other that it’s okay to make mistakes and not have all the answers right now. Take this excellent opportunity to build caring connections with each other, open more mature lines of communication and let your kids be a part of a relationship that’s built on mutual support.
2. Transition wisely. Transition the sleep time and wake-up time a week or so before school starts to allow time for a proper transition. Everyone benefits from rest. The kids will be less cranky and feel less overwhelmed and you’ll be in a better position to help your kids (and yourself) cope with the transition. If you’re having trouble getting that earlier bedtime in place, try an age-appropriate guided meditation by using a free app like Smiling Mind.
3. Take a moment to express gratitude. As the summer comes to a close, take the time to remember and truly appreciate all the good times fun experiences the summer had to offer. Gratitude has the power to change our mindset from wanting more to having enough.
4. Set your intentions for the next 180 days. Think about your short-term and long-term goals and identify what qualities or energy you’ll need to make them happen — this is how intentions are formed. For example, if your kid’s goal is to get through a tough math class, consider setting an intention to focus. Then, reinforce that intention daily by sitting down together with your intentions and use them as your own personal mantras. As you inhale, visualize breathing in your mantra (“focus”, “patience”, “compassion” or whatever coincides with your intentions for the year). As you exhale, see yourself releasing all the worries and fears. Not only does this practice force you to hit pause and remember what really matters to you before moving on with your day, but it also teaches the benefits and importance of daily self-care. Plus, it sure beats rushing out the door in a panic and trying to do damage control later. Why not start every day feeling more empowered and centered?
5. Extend your compassion to others. Sometimes it helps to remember that you’re not the only experiencing fear and/or anxiety. Take a moment to consider how others may be feeling as well. The teacher is probably feeling some stress and anxiety about the upcoming school year with a new bunch of kids. The other kids probably share your kids’ worries. The other parents are also probably wondering how they are going to survive this transition this year. Even if it appears that everyone but you has their stuff together, I guarantee you that isn’t the case. Practice kindness toward others instead of assuming that you’re the only one struggling.
How does your family cope with the back-to-school transitions? —Alison