It's back to school for many of our children - exciting for some and daunting for others.
Families can easily become overwhelmed with thoughts of school supplies, getting the 'right' sneakers and backpack, packing nutritious lunches in the age of packaged snacks, getting to school on time, excelling on the soccer field, organizing carpools, and so on. It can be exhausting just thinking about it all...Imagine how our children must feel at times - especially when we, the parents, are the ones racing around with our heads spinning!
What can we do as parents to ensure that our families stay calm, healthy and connected? Here are 3 tips that have worked well for our family:
1) Limit after-school activities.
- Allows for much-needed decompression time after the long school day, encouraging quiet, reflection and self-created activities which ultimately improve creativity and self-dependence
- Allows for cooking and eating family dinners together, proven to be the best way for families to stay strong and connected
- Allows time for unrushed homework
2) Plan ahead.
- Save time and energy during the ultra busy school/work-week by making freezable dinners ahead of time over the weekend. When you do cook in the evenings, make a double batch and freeze half to use on an evening that is especially busy.
- Discover the pressure cooker! They cook meats, soups, stews, everything in a fraction of the time while maintaining the nutrients of whole foods.
- Plan a menu and shop on the weekend for the week's lunches. Prepare lunches the evening before - ask your children to help choose and pack healthy foods for their lunch, providing an empowering lesson in nutrition.
- How about working with your children to sort, iron and line up school and work outfits for the week on Sunday afternoon?
- Once you've established your family's morning 'leave time' to get to work and school on time, subtract 20 minutes and make that time the goal. For example, if you child needs to start walking to school by 8:15, establish 7:55 as the goal. This allows for some time that is relaxed and unrushed, mabye even allowing space for a morning check in and chat with your child. This can go a long way to starting the day on a positive and peaceful note.
- Are missing shoes and backpacks typically an issue during your household’s morning rush? A cubby organizer system may be a worthwhile addition to your entryway area. You might even keep a hairbrush or comb by the back door for last minute hair fixes that don't require a trip back up the stairs.
3) Establish family rituals.
- Establish a relaxed and easy bedtime routine. Allow at least 10-15 minutes each evening for reading together, doing some restorative yoga stretches (we like to read while lying on my daughter's bed with our legs up the wall, ending with a reclining twist), or doing a creative visualization. End with a breathing exercise such as bumble bee breath. This creates the perfect transitional setting for sleep. In addition to strengthening bonds through quality, one on one time, it will also help to ensure your children are getting the Zzzs they need for a stress-free day.
- Have a dedicated weekly family day/night. Perhaps Friday night is movie and popcorn night, or Sunday afternoon is set as a weekly dinner with extended family. Choosing and sticking with a ritual event at a set time/day, and organzing other activities around it, will show your family how important it is. Oftentimes, this type of family ritual will span generations. What a gift to our children!
Try working together as a family to find opportunities to simplify and save time and energy. Inevitably, this will lead to more time for play, rest and rejuvenation during downtimes – wonderful antidotes to stress.
Whether it’s yoga and breathing exercises, improved time management, fewer after-school activities or packing school lunches the night before, there are many ‘small things’ that can be done to reduce stress during the hectic school year. Do you or your family have an idea you’d like to share about managing school time stress? Please share them - we'd love to hear from you!
For more info on the tips above, click on the hyperlinks above. Here also are some great websites supporting this topic: