It is that time of the year again. Summer vacation is coming to an end, and children and parents everywhere are getting ready to start the new school year: shopping for clothes and back to school supplies, trying to start getting more sleep, and so on. I, for one, hated going back. Sure, I enjoyed it the first few grades, but by the time I reached 4th or 5th grade, I knew that school was not a place I was looking forward to seeing again.
Lots of anxiety and worry accompany students, and this is especially true for kids who are transitioning from grade school to middle school, or from middle school to high school. There are also the kids who are transferring from one school to another, regardless of the grade. Studies are showing that children today are under too much stress. From a very young age, it seems they are pressured to succeed. And if this pressure does not come from the parents, it will come from the system which bombards them with classes, homework, essays, school tests, State tests, grades, report cards, and other “fun” things which every child absolutely loves…
Kids are anxious and stressed out about the new kids they are going to meet, the friends (and enemies) they may see or not see again, their new teachers, their new classes. This can be a healthy mixture, sometimes. The old “butterflies in stomach” feeling is not necessarily a bad one. However, combined with the school system and its sets of rules and regulations, it can become an embittering experience.
The new school year can also be a stressful time for the parents. Once again, having to get used to getting the kids up, clothed, fed, and ready to go by 8 AM is a big ball of stress. Parents are also under pressure to be out the door and at work on time, and kids can inadvertently be the victims of their parents’ anxiety. This can lead to a terrible morning ritual, and when it arrives each and every morning, well… let’s just say it can’t be good. It is a veritable recipe for disaster.
There are ways, however, to help parents and children with this potentially-damaging going back to school routine. And guess what? A lot of it falls on the parents. But it isn’t as bad as it may sound. The point is that happy parents make for happy children. If you, as a parent, are able to start off the morning on the right foot, and make an attempt to avoid the little things that get in your face and upset you, you will find that creating a healthy morning ritual is the best thing you could possibly do.
First and foremost, you may need to wake up earlier. This, in turn, means going to sleep earlier. There is no way around it. A sleepy brain and a tired mind – they cannot give you and your children what you (and they) need. You will have to adapt to a different schedule. Ultimately, it is all about priorities. The decision will have to be made. Do you want every weekday morning to be stressful and full of sour pusses, or do you want your children to wake up to a home where they have well-rested parents looking after them? One of these options has a good future, and the other does not. Of course, it is possible to live like the former option, and for a very long time. Every morning could be a shout-fest and a jumble of hasty scrambling, passive-aggressiveness, and car-horn honking. But who wants or needs that?
Obviously, not every morning will be perfect. Heck – maybe most of them won’t be! There are many things (often unexpected ones) that can interfere with your morning, no matter how carefully and meticulously you had planned it out.
“Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon
But, do you really need to add more stress and worry to a household that is already at a potential boiling point? Throw a teenager or two into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a par-tay!
It seems that in the morning, some people (kids and parents alike) are just a powder keg waiting to go off. Sensitive, touchy, grouchy individuals, who more than anything just want to creep back into bed, are already going to be on the irritable side. Well, the good news is that there will be times where you will be able to do exactly that! The bad news is that more often than not, you will not be able to do exactly that.
Whether you like it or not, we all need structure. School-aged children especially need someone to set an example and structure their time. This is as true first thing in the morning as it is for the rest of the day. Not to say that children need to be supervised and managed 24/7, not at all! Children need their time to be children. However, it is very beneficial to have a proper morning schedule, so that kids and parents know what is going on.
If that means going to sleep early, so you can wake up early – do it.
If that means waking up 10 minutes before that, so you can do a quick meditation/breathing exercise, or grab that 3 minute shower, and get your head straight – do it.
If that means moving fast fast FAST, so you can get breakfast on the table on time – do it. There are some times where compromising can ultimately lead to negativity.
One great thing about being human is that we can adapt to just about anything that life throws at us. We can acquire new patterns of behavior, new surroundings, new schools of thought, and new habits. Places, ideas, and things can become second nature to us, if only we take the time to pay attention to them, and give them the place they deserve in our minds and actions.
If you want a healthier, more balanced morning routine, start with yourself. To paraphrase the Mahatma: “be the change you want to see”… in the morning!
You want your kids up early – get up early.
You want your kids to have a healthy breakfast – it is on you to fix it.
And so on.
Some situations are unavoidable. Times when there is some sort of emergency, or when one of the kids is sick. These will also come. These are the times when we feel life is throwing a monkey wrench in our gears, solely intended to mess us up.
Well, the first rule is to be prepared. And while it is impossible to be prepared for all events, it is possible to acquire a mindset that will aid in dealing with said events. Gaining a healthier perspective is as easy as you make it. The more you put into it, the more you will find you can do. It is like a muscle. Use it, move it, train it, work with it – it will respond and grow.
Start off small, and don’t jump too high too fast. Start with whatever it is you think is your number one issue, and tackle it slowly. I know, for a fact, that the main reason why I am grouchy in the mornings (provided it is just a regular morning) is because I didn’t get enough sleep during the night. I h-a-t-e getting up after the third “snooze” was hit, all groggy and fog-brained, to a house where nothing is ready, the dog is barking for her walk, and I know that we’re all going to be late. I have had plenty of those mornings in the past, and nowadays – that is, during the past school year – they have lessened considerably. How? Because I made it my mission, a top priority one, to get that done. To wake up. And you know what? A lot of problems are still out there. You can’t solve them all. But there are many problems which you can get a handle on, and it is all just waiting for you to take charge and do it.
I know. I know. Easier said than done. I agree. But if you want to change your children’s school year, and get them to be more productive and less anxious – having a healthy morning ritual is a must. It sets the tone for the whole day. People who wake up in a good mood, to a home with a good vibe, are more likely to continue experiencing that vibe in their school/work/daily life.
Children, like adults, can adapt. The anxiety of a new school year is there, along with its worries and different trials. Do yourself a favor, and help them with their adaptation process. By being a good mom or dad, you can be turning their lives around for the better, in ways which you may not fathom. It is that easy. You know why? Because you are MOM or DAD. You have the power. You have the technology. Utilize it.
A note on anxiety:
Sometimes, children’s school troubles stem a lot deeper than grades or exams or making new friends. Be alert and on the lookout for any red-flag-raising changes in your child’s behavior. The beginning of the year can be very stressful, and that is natural. But it shouldn’t be a constant state. Handing over your child to the system of education is always an action which has some mixed feelings, at least at first. As much as it is difficult for the student to start the new school year, it can also be very difficult for the student’s parents.
Noticeable changes in diet, rapid mood swings, unstable sleeping habits, and changes in interaction with family – these could all indicate something more serious is going on. Make sure to be aware of your child, and, if necessary, to take the measures needed to find the root cause of his or her behavior.
It is a new school year. Let’s make the most of it!
Since not all students are educated in traditional school systems… click here to read about The Future of Homeschooling