Is the back-to-school frenzy making you feel a bit stressed? If you’re a parent of a child in school, you might be in the midst of purchasing school supplies, picking out a first-day-of-school outfit, and coordinating after-school child care. Carpool logistics, more shopping, haircuts—the list goes on. Plus, let’s face it, your kids have been out of school for several weeks and they are driving you mad!
While daydreaming about having a full-time assistant might be a nice respite, it won’t help the situation. What may help is taking a moment to pause and get centered. Before rushing into the school year, what if you took the time to ask yourself, “What do I truly want my child to learn, and how can I be involved with that learning process?”
Here are some ideas to start the school year peacefully and gracefully.
1. Set an Intention for the School Year
When you feel anchored to an intention, you can always return to it whenever you feel that you’re getting overwhelmed or off track. This is an exercise that everyone in your family can try.
Sit down together and offer everyone in your family a crayon or marker and a notecard or piece of paper. Set a timer for one minute and encourage everyone to silently brainstorm about a values-based intention for the year. You can offer examples like:
- My intention is to treat everyone with kindness.
- My intention is to make family time a priority.
- My intention is to not give up, even when things are difficult.
- My intention is to not be hard on myself.
- My intention is to try my best in school.
Invite everyone to write down their intentions and post them somewhere visible like the refrigerator. It might be fun to draw a picture to go along with the intention.
2. Teach Your Child About Kindness, Empathy, and Compassion
If you haven’t yet read this blog post from Momastery.com, now’s the time. I’ll be reading this to my daughter before her first day of fourth grade, and I’ll be reminding her of its important lessons—treat others with kindness, act bravely on feelings of compassion, practice gratitude—throughout the year.
During the school year, check in each day to see if your child did anything compassionate while at school. You may need to list examples like:
- Did you notice if anyone was lonely? If so, did you include him/her?
- Did you offer a pencil to someone who forgot one?
- Did you pick up trash that you saw on the playground?
These are perfect conversation topics for dinnertime. Be sure to acknowledge and celebrate your child’s kindness.
3. Encourage School Administrators and Educators to Make Compassion a Priority
Your child is most likely with his/her teacher more than he/she is with you during the school week, and he/she is picking up on their values. Does your child’s teacher model mindfulness, compassion, and self-compassion? Does the teacher discuss these values in the classroom?
Parents have the power to positively influence teachers and administrators. Check out these programs that help foster mindfulness and compassion, and ask the school to consider implementing one or more of them.
- Compassion It: A nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring compassionate actions. They offers workshops and lessons—in-person and online—that introduce mindfulness and compassion skills to teachers and students.
- MindUp™: Founded by actress Goldie Hawn, MindUP is a social and emotional training program and curriculum of 15 lessons designed to create a classroom environment conducive for learning. The program prepares teachers to help students learn how to self-regulate behavior, practice mindful awareness, improve concentration, increase academic performance, and reduce stress.
- Mindful Schools: Mindfulness courses and curricula designed for educators to integrate mindfulness in the classroom and develop the skills needed to connect with youth, increase well-being, and improve the learning environment.
- Mindful Classrooms: A mindfulness program, training workshops, and classroom resources created for elementary school teachers. It focuses on five-minute daily mindful breathing and stretching practices to empower students.
- Start Empathy: A company dedicated to creating a future where every child becomes an expert at empathy. This includes encouraging parents to help their children learn empathy and collaborating with schools to cultivate empathy practices.
4. Keep Self-Compassion Front-of-Mind
Parenting and self-criticism seem to go hand-in-hand, unfortunately. Try to notice your critical self-talk and see if you can nurture a more compassionate inner voice. No parent is perfect, and you’re going to mess up often. Check out these exercises by Kristin Neff, PhD., to learn how to make self-compassion a habit.
Imagine what modeling self-compassion could do for your child. Your children will shine if they understand that they are human (and therefore not perfect), if they know that they are not alone, and if they are able to possess a kind and encouraging inner voice.
By starting the school year off on the right foot, you are setting the tone for the rest of the year. Instead of feeling frenzied, perhaps you and your children will feel grounded, courageous, and ready to take on the year.
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