Please know you are not alone at this Back to School time as you plan how to help your family make it through the transition. Maybe you’ve enjoyed a loose summer – letting the kids stay up late; waking up later and not having to rush out the door in the mornings. You’ve had more social time and hanging out with friends, or vacations and time away. You might have noticed your kids’ moods have been more calm and easier to be with during the summer.
You are dreading having to wake up earlier, trying to make it through the morning rush without an argument or tantrum; you don’t welcome the tension you feel when you know you have to get your kids moving; or your own work is busy and doesn’t allow for summer breaks, so you don’t feel like you’ve even had a summer vacation. You dread the tyranny of the homework routine, or you know how you or your partner (or your children) don’t always respond at your best when the stress gets high.
Back to school time is stressful for parents and kids alike. I’ve heard from parents who are eager for the kids to be back in school and back in their routine (one that doesn’t involve sitting around all day on a device) but who are worried about how challenging it will be knowing that their kids’ agenda is not the same as theirs. I’ve heard from kids who don’t look forward to the back to school grind and are bracing themselves for inevitable arguments and struggles. Some kids are looking forward to reconnecting with their friends, but not excited about their teachers or their schedule. Other kids might be dreading seeing those same peers and feeling the insecurity that they experience when starting a new school, or having more responsibilities than they feel they can handle. Or experiencing slights from friends.
Parents may have some self consciousness or not feel like they’re good enough as they rush to get everything done and ready for their kids to be back in school: sign up for afterschool care; get their kids’ supplies; take care of medical appointments; get necessary signatures; sign up to volunteer at the school; organize kids practice schedules and transportation needs; get reasonable lunch foods that are easy to eat, deal with children’s special needs or emotional breakdowns; meet all deadlines. Parents may feel they have to stay ahead of the pack or they’ll get mowed down. Usually all of this contributes to endless rushing (or resistance to rushing) -neither of which feels good to anyone on the pushing end or receiving end. Normal human reaction when things aren’t going well is to push harder or resist more, creating conflict in the family; making the back-to-school time even harder than it is already.
The conflict of pressures during the back to school or any transition time actually creates an especially important time to PAUSE. It may seem impossible to find any moment of open space and calm amidst the harriedness; but indeed those moments are there – if you can find ways to be present in the moment.
Being present in the moment, without judgment, and bringing yourself back to the present moment when you notice you’ve wandered is what mindfulness is about. Science shows that parents and kids are happier and more resilient when they are more present – when their bodies and their minds are in the same place at the same time. When people are more connected to what’s going on in front of them, that is mindfulness. When any of us are worried or perseverating about the future; or lamenting or ruminating about the past; or wishing and striving to avoid or change the present, we are suffering.
There is so much going on during back-to-school time that it can be nearly impossible to slow down enough to notice everything. And yet it is such a necessary time to find pause within the rush.
I offer these tips for having a more gentle, peaceful and mindful transition back to school:
- Remember: this is a time of transition- everyone has at least a little hole in their bucket. Build in extra time.
- Remember everyone – children and adults – really just want to love and be loved. Don’t make the responsibilities and duties matter more than the times for connection.
- Try not to over-structure your kids’ or your days. Minimize both your and your kids’ device time.
- Prioritize listening over lecturing. Listen to them, and listen to your own inner life. Listen also to how you sound when you are making efforts to teach them something. Are you appealing to their openness to learning, or to their need to shut down?
- Choose compassion over tyranny – toward your children; toward yourself.
- Build some down time or play into your daily lives – blow bubbles together; take a walk or skip together; share highs and lows of your days. Make sure laughter is part of your daily dialogue.
- Resist your own impulse to tell your kids how they should or should not feel. Instead allow whatever feelings are there to simply be, even the unsavory ones. Feelings generally pass if they are acknowledged and allowed without judgement, more quickly than if they are denied, avoided, or argued.
- Take a PAUSE break before stress ramps up – before the morning gets going, when you’re arriving home at night, before homework time. Use this acronym as an aid:
- P pause. Take a deep breath. Come to the present moment.
- A acknowledge what’s going on inside and allow it to just be.
- U undo any judgement or wish to fix or change. Just be present to it.
- S savor this moment as it simply is.
- E enter the next moment with ease.
Pause + Breath + Compassion for Self and Other + Mindfulness = Best Way to Get Back to School!
For more information on my upcoming course to bring more mindfulness into your life please check out the OASIS program here.
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