Fall is my favorite season – the cool crisp air, the return of Patriots football, The Boston Celtics and new Morning Mindfulness Classes starting back up. So while I’m excited for the new school year, I feel it’s important to remember that it can be a stressful time for our kids.
Outside of the obvious stresses that accompany a new school year – new teachers, advanced material, homework and after-school activities – most kids are just out of practice and have trouble switching gears… getting back into a structured schedule, without feeling some added stress.
Factor in the social and emotional growth that comes with being a kid – dealing with self image, appearance, peer pressure, trying to fit in and the pressure they put on themselves to do well, and you see there’s a lot more involved with going back to school than picking up some new clothes and back to school gear.
So what can we do to make these transitions as smooth as possible for everyone in the family?
1. Create A Schedule
Organize a family calendar together and set some goals for the school year. Be very clear when setting the rules of the school week – be consistent. Kids crave structure and it’s confusing and stressful for them if you are inconsistent with the schedule.
Be sure to take a look at your school’s online calendar, so you’ll know when you’ll need coverage on half days, holidays, etc. You can schedule blocks for homework time, bedtime, breakfast, drop off, free time – and any after school activities on your family calendar. There should be some flexibility within the schedule – don’t forget to budget time to hang out with your kids.
Keep your calendar in a central location. We keep our calendar in the kitchen, so when we all leave for the day, we all know what to expect for that day.
2. Meditate Together (5 days a week)
Sit quietly together for five minutes every day before school. Everybody has at least five minutes to spare to “tune their instruments” before they start their day.
Use these five minutes to set a calm tone for the day, or to recharge before homework and dinner. Just sit, close your eyes, and lightly focus on your breath.
Sometimes, listening to your breath is hard. If you or your kids need help with meditation please use my free 10 minute guided meditation together.
My son (with either Catharine or I) has been meditating almost every day before school for the past two years. It has created a wonderful bond between us all and it is the best way to start the day. It helps create a sense of connection and safety – which helps reduce stress. So join us from wherever you are – take your own 180 Day OMSchool Meditation Challenge ™ this year. We begin ours on August, 29th.
3. Limit TV & Media Areas
We suggest limiting the amount of television and other media use during the week. If our son finishes his homework on time – and anything else he is expected to do that day – we will let him watch a 30 minute show on the DVR. It’s a great incentive for him to get his work done and keep him focused.
High-Tech VS Low-Tech
While we keep the downstairs pretty high-tech, our upstairs is very low-tech. We feel it’s important to keep all computers and laptops in a central location downstairs – this includes phones and iPods. If you’re someone who can’t go two seconds without checking your iPhone, Twitter or Facebook status and you take all your gear to bed, this tip is for you too!
The research suggests that users should turn off laptops, nooks, etc. at least two hours before bedtime if you want to have a restful night’s sleep. Researchers found that light emitting devices really do trick our minds into thinking that it is still daytime – causing a disruption in our sleep pattern and unnecessary stress, not to mention the risk of insomnia.
Most children need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep every night. Parents are often too tired at the end of their own day to argue about bedtime and can get easily stressed when our kids resist the transition to bed. So, once you’ve established the bedtime in your daily schedule, back it up 15 minutes before, helping guide them into this transition.
Say things like, “OK, in 15 minutes you’re going to go upstairs, brush your teeth, get a book and jump into bed”. Have them repeat it back to you. By taking the time to tell your kids what you want them to do, well before the actual time, you’re getting them to agree to the desired bedtime. Then it’s not an order from you – they’ve agreed to it – because you discussed it first. You’ve removed the emotional reaction to the situation.
5. Spend Time & Listen
I think the most important thing a parent can do is spend time with your kids and be ready to listen fully when your child wants to talk. Over the years, I’ve found that my son will naturally open right up to me when we are hanging out shooting hoops, drawing together, watching football and even just riding in the car.
Most of the time, it’s when he’s ready to share his feelings. The one time I can guarantee that he will not open up to me is when I pick him up from school and ask him directly, “How was your day?”. That’s when I get the bare minimum, “It was good…”
Quality VS Quantity
I hear the term quality time thrown around a lot and I’m just not so sure you can force quality… into time. I think there’s really just time. Sure, some of it may be quality time and some of it might not be, however if you are there consistently – simply being present and open in that time together – there are more opportunities for it to turn into quality time.
This doesn’t have to be a ton of time, all at once either. Spending time together can be as easy as having family dinner – without looking at your phone, a magazine, the newspaper or your laptop. You just need to be there. Kids are tuned in and they can tell if you’re not paying attention to them.
Kids are resilient when it comes to coping with stressful transitions, but they still need our support and guidance.
Hopefully, these tips will help the whole family get back into the flow of the school year a little easier – and you ALL start the year off with a lot less stress.