With summer coming to and end and vacations and homework-free evenings behind us, angst can creep up on both parents and children. The unknown expectations and demands of a new class, or even a new school, can contribute to this sense of anxiety as we mourn the loss of our carefree summers and transition into the new school year. Add face-masks and the potential for exposure to COVID-19, the anxiety increases. Preparing for this can empower you as a family to openly embrace this new beginning and all its possibilities with open arms.
1. Change Sleep Patterns
Many of us have gotten used to not setting an alarm clock and allowing ourselves to sleep in and stay up later at night. The early bus and carpools will soon put an end to that! Rather than wait until the last minute and see your child off to school in a daze, start to go to bed and wake up earlier a week or 2 before school begins.
2. Model Positivity
Show your children excitement about the new school year and all of its possibilities. Kids pick up on their parents’ attitudes and emotions, so if you are showing dread or angst about this, your child will likely feel the same. Be the family cheerleader!
3. Belly Breathing Techniques
Healthy breathing is one of the most effective tools to manage stress and/or anxiety. Practice this technique with your children and notice how you and your kids will be much well equipped to manage stress in a healthier way.
· Bring your hands to your belly and focus on your breath coming in and out of your nose.
· As you inhale, imagine that you are slowly inflating a balloon into your belly, expanding your belly outwards.
· Now slowly exhale as if you were gradually releasing the air from that balloon (belly). Feel your belly come in when you do so.
· Repeat several times, focusing on the inhalations and exhalations remaining smooth, deep and even.
My daughter, Jordyn, a school social worker, has a creative twist on this. She calls it 'cookie breathing' and instructs her students to inhale and 'smell the cookies baking' and exhale and 'blow gently on the warm cookies to cool them off'. I love this visual and the way kids can relate to this.
When practiced properly, this technique relaxes the muscles of the body, calms the nervous system, and relaxes the mind.
4. Prepare vs. Procrastinate
Instead of scrambling around at the last minute early in the morning when racing the clock, lay out clothing, pre-pack lunches, and make sure homework is done and put away the night before. Showering or bathing the night before is equally timesaving. By doing these few things, you can take the time to have a healthy breakfast together and see your children go off to school in a more relaxed manner.
5. Open Communication
Years ago, when my daughters were school age, we had a wonderful ritual I would like to share and encourage others to adopt. When they came home from school, we went to the ‘talking couch’ together and my girls shared the best & worst parts of their day. If something was wrong, they vented and if something was right, we celebrated! The bottom line is to keep the doors of communication open between you and your children, so that they know they have an ally to help them navigate the ins and outs of their educational career.
Have a wonderful re-entry into school this year and practice managing stress and anxiety together by carving out some healthy moments to breathe, relax, and communicate together as a family.
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