Going back to school is an emotional root beer float – if you don’t pay attention, it’ll foam up too fast and make a mess all over the table! In my house, the back-to-school emotions have been across the board (and all over the table). One minute, my daughter Sequoia has been excited, the next, she’s scared. A few minutes later she’s bummed, then excited again. Clean-up, aisle five.
And I honestly can’t say I’ve fared much better (and from the many posts from parents and teachers on facebook, I can see that this isn’t exclusively a child’s issue).
So I’ve put together a strategy to beat those back-to-school blues…
1. Distract with fun!
(This one seems almost too obvious to include!) A surprise movie or a special visitor is a great distraction to the nervousness and disappointment of school starting.
Fun distraction is a teacher’s secret weapon to back-to-school jitters! New games and special treats just seem to make the transition smoother.
But the back-to-school blues are not just a first-day phenomenon. They tend to linger a couple of weeks until the suntan wears off and the fall coats come out. So that takes us to #2…
2. Look forward to something.
Distracting with in-the-moment fun only lasts for so long – until the moment is over. Have something exciting coming up in the future that you can psych you and the kids up for – like a planned sleepover, a field trip, or a special event (like our Chick Hatching program!).
This is where planning pays off! If you’re a teacher, invite a special speaker to excite the kids about a new unit; or if you’re a parent, follow up the teacher’s topic with a weekend trip that will excite kids’ curiosity or reward them for trying something new.
3. Schedule and plan together.
Get the kids excited about what’s coming up. Now is the time to update your calendar and talk about what’s around the bend in your lives.
Knowing what’s next helps us all mentally and emotionally prepare. And when kids have a say in what’s being planned, they become invested (and can help with some of the work in getting it ready!)
4. Clean out the old to make room for the new.
This one is a must for me – and for small children. We’re always outgrowing our old selves. If our too-small clothes (or old papers or unfinished crafts, etc.) are always hanging around, making us wish for the good-old-days, or making us feel regret over what we didn’t accomplish, it’s hard to step into our future.
This holds true for kids too! My daughter has cried over many an outfit I left in her closet after I knew it was too small. Take the time to regularly wean what is no longer serving you in your life.
The start of the school year is a wonderful time to do this! Plan a Saturday to pump up the music and breathe some fresh air into your home and your life by getting rid of the unused and outgrown.
5. Set goals and intentions.
Intentions are imperative if we are to get to where we want to go. I love using these with my daughter – and with myself.
Sequoia recently struggled with following through on commitments to turn off the tv after her allotted time was over. Starting the next viewing session with a verbal intention to be responsible gave her the self-confidence to overcome the lure of the tube.
Having a goal to work towards gives us direction and allows us to see a bigger future for ourselves than just living reactively in the moment can give us.
6. Create ways of monitoring your goals and charting progress.
I’m a Virgo – I make lists. I love seeing my progress on paper. My daughter is the same way. Starting with a new piano teacher, she was given a chart of the days of the week, with spaces to fill in her practice time. It’s the visual stimuli she needed.
And it’s fun! She loved filling in a block on her volleyball chart for each time she did her drills. It became a motivating game! Creating systems to help chart your family’s goals will get this new phase in everyone’s life off to a good start.
7. Plan special breaks.
Working all the time is no fun. Sometimes school feels that way, especially when homework looms. Sure, we all take breaks, but do you have enough special breaks in your life?
One of my daughter’s favorite things to do after school is to have a tea party. It takes 15 minutes and gives her a transition of play – something special waiting for her, as well as uninterrupted time with her mom. (And sometimes we even do homework while we sip tea out of tiny china!)
For me, a special break is lunch on my front porch instead of in front of my computer, or a walk with my family before chores. Those tiny respites are what renew us and take away our stress.
8. Celebrate milestones.
Each year we are different people; we change, we grow, we develop. How many times have you let important milestones slip by unnoticed? (I know I have!)
Celebrate the step into a new school year with a special award or play time – acknowledge the specialness of growing up. Give yourself something meaningful for that first grey hair or the fact that you exercised 4 weeks in a row.
Celebrating ourselves and our children helps us to see the value in our life experiences.
9. Regroup with family time.
I don’t know about you, but family time is sometimes the first thing I sacrifice when life gets busy. I say no to bath play and dolls more than I’d like to admit.
But you know, when I stand back and realize what that 15 minutes I’m hoarding will mean – and I give in to the request – it’s amazing. I connect with my daughter, and myself as a mother, in a way that feeds me and makes me more able to step back to my work.
Sometimes it only takes 5 minutes to fill a need and connect deeply and meaningfully.
10. Take time for yourself.
As parents, teachers, spouses, friends, etc., we love to give (and give and give!). And sometimes we forget about ourselves.
When work is crazy and the house is a mess, sometimes it’s daunting to step aside and do what feels frivolous – like taking a walk back to my willow tree or doing 10 minutes of yoga. But when I do, I’m renewed.
To be my best and give my all to those people I love, I have to nourish myself.
Kids are no exception. They need their alone time, their indulgence in naps and loud play, no matter their age. We each deserve to do what we love to do. And it makes us better at being us!
What do you do to beat the back-to-school blues? Share your stories and suggestions below. (And have a great school year!)