It’s that time of year again! Already! So long, summer vacation, relaxation, sleeping in, and lounging by the pool… here comes homework, setting an alarm, and packing lunches. This time of year yields a mixture of emotions for kids and parents (and teachers) alike. Along with the excitement of picking out first day of school outfit options, finding out who your kids’ teachers are, and discovering if your child’s BFF is in her class so she’ll be less nervous, sometimes anticipating the next school-year inspires anxiety and fear – at any age. Back to school ads are everywhere right now telling you to buy the hot new trends for Fall, cute school supplies, and basically the essentials for fitting in and having a successful school year. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the back-to-school madness!
A Special Note to Parents: Here are a few ideas for staying grounded in the mornings before school and modeling a mindful approach to beginning the school-year with peaceful presence:
1. Take a Few Extra Minutes for Yourself in the morning before waking your kids, to get centered. Over coffee (essential for the success of any morning in my opinion), set a positive intention for yourself for the day. For instance, “I intend to be calm and present with my kids this morning as we get ready for school.” Allow every breath, word, and action you take be an extension of this intention. And WHEN things don’t go according to plan – Billy won’t get out of bed, Sally’s taking too long in the bathroom doing her makeup, and you forgot to buy the right lunchmeat – you will be able to take a deep breath, use a calm voice, and roll with it!
2. Stop and Look Around. Like Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I know it feels like there’s no time to stop, but trust me on this one. This is the last time your kids will be at this age going into this grade, and it would be nice to remember it. When you notice yourself getting caught up in the madness of getting everybody up and out the door, momentarily pause, breathe, and take note of what you see, hear, smell, and feel inside. Getting grounded in this way will actually help you to be more alert, available, and able to move quickly without forgetting something. Also, being present with all your senses will help you to notice your internal experience of frustration, impatience, joy, excitement, fear, and/or sadness. With all that yummy awareness, you can CHOOSE how to respond to your kids, instead of reacting and using a harsher tone than you intended.
3. Be Gentle with Yourself and Hold your Expectations Lightly. It’s not going to go perfectly. As much as you’ve prepared for the first day of school, prepped lunches, laid out clothes, set alarms, and packed backpacks, something is likely to go awry. Perhaps, little Johnny has a meltdown and is suddenly terrified to go into the next grade. Maybe your teenage daughter just woke up with a brand new zit, and her life seems to be over…in her words of course. When you have prepared yourself with a positive intention, a little extra “me-time,” and presence with your inner experience, you are now equipped to handle all of the little crises with grace and patience…in theory. In the case that you’ve done the first 2 steps, and you’re not handling the meltdowns as the Zen Goddess you’ve prepared to be, cut yourself a break. You don’t have to be Super Mom or Dad the whole morning. Just noticing when your temper is getting the best of you and you’re starting to lose your cool, is enough to bring you back to your present, mindful state. Gently guiding yourself back when you notice you’ve temporarily lost it, by saying compassionately to yourself, “It’s ok! You’ve got this. Breath,” and look at the next tiny step toward getting you and your little angels out the door, and taking it, you experience success.
Perfection is NOT the goal here. Modeling the ability to briefly lose your mind and then regain presence through breathing or taking a little break, is invaluable information for your little ones to learn self-regulation, self-compassion, and awareness.
**For more specific ideas on how to teach Mindfulness to your children, consider bringing them to the Austin Mindfulness Center Back-To-School Workshop next Saturday, August 16th…bring the whole family! You’ll be able to learn first-hand how to embody mindfulness and help your children move from freak-out to chill-out in a gentle, loving way. Kids will also get hands-on experiences with peers while learning fun and stimulating mindfulness activities to keep in mind as they embark on the new school-year.