“Back to school” for the whole family
September is just around the corner. It may seem like it was just yesterday that you were getting adjusted to a new summer routine and now it’s already time to readjust for fall.
Preparing the whole family for the start of a new school year doesn’t have to mean flipping a switch and completely changing everything. There are some things you can do to ease into the transition over the next couple of weeks. There are also some things you can do to decrease parental stress levels while the family heads into what is likely a more structured time; these involve continuing some practices that may have made summer feel more relaxed for everyone. Ultimately, getting into a rhythm for a new daily routine means ensuring important supports, making helpful connections and beginning the activities and interactions that help ease the transition. Here are a few top tips from the team at Whole Heart to get your September started on the right foot:
Before the first day of class, ensure your child is connected to the supports/resources they need at school. Reach out to make contact, check in on programs and services and proactively arrange a call to discuss any specific needs with the Guidance/Wellness or Student Services department. For parents, joining a class or grade parent lists and getting to know others can also create another support system of shared tips or helpful reminders with other adults.
Plan play dates or support your child in arranging get-togethers with peers prior to the beginning of school to help with gradual exposure to social Interactions. This can also be a time to start thinking about and looking into opportunities for community engagement, such as school clubs and sports leagues or other extra-curriculars that tap into your child’s interests and passions. We often get caught in putting our own social time off until we get into a fall rhythm. If you’ve been getting out to meet up with friends or colleagues over the summer, be sure to hold space for your own socialization and get some dates on the calendar.
If the summer bedtime hours have been a bit lax, now is the time for everyone to start heading to bed a bit earlier to get an adequate amount of sleep every night. Limiting screen use before bed, avoiding large meals, and having a bedroom that is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature is best. For parents, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime is also key for a good night’s sleep.
We tend to be more active in the summer. While camps are ending or lessons may be coming to an end, identify ways for your kids to keep active through the summer to fall transition. Maybe that means park time, walks or bike rides as a family or with friends until other activities get underway with the start of school. Exercise has significant impact and benefits on physical and mental health. It lifts our mood by releasing endorphins that enhance feelings of well-being and fosters a healthy outlet for stress. As parents, it’s equally important to continue making physical activity a priority to support your overall well-being and in the process you are also setting an important example of self-care.
Connect with love ones to process their day
A family check-in activity that you can begin now at the dinner table or at the end of the day is “Rose/Bud/Thorn”: “Rose”: tell me something that made you proud today. “Bud”: tell me something you are working on. “Thorn”: tell me something that was tough. It’s a simple way to share your experiences, and with everyone taking part, it doesn’t have to be specific to school.
Whether it’s a meditation, journaling or an end-of-day reflection, cultivating appreciation of the everyday and learning to be more present benefits the whole family. Meditation and mindfulness can help us to calm our minds, increase pleasure and joy in our day-to-day activities, build compassion and gratitude for ourselves and others and gain clarity around things that can be difficult. You can also start the morning with a simple meditation to begin the day in a calm and positive frame of mind.
Normalize and Validate
Initial school anxieties are normal for kids and parents. You can validate your kids’ experience and worries (and your own!) while reflecting on other nervous-making times when things went well. Encourage a growth mindset by inspiring curiosity with the challenges that may arise and replacing self-judgment with self-compassion. Remember, back to school isn’t only about the kids – you’re all going through a period of adjustment and it’s good to acknowledge together that things may feel challenging for the first couple of weeks, but by taking it one day at a time everyone will adjust.
Ultimately, establishing a good rhythm to the fall routine means a combination of preparation, communication and self-compassion for everyone.
The team at Whole Heart are dedicated to helping families live better lives. To learn about our programs and services go to: https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/services/