Anyone else feel like they’ve just blinked and Summer 2021 waved ‘Yalla, Bye’?
It feels like just yesterday that I was only noticing the amount of summer camps (some impressively innovative I must say) and activities being advertised to support parents in keeping the kiddies engaged over the summer. Then, with the click of somebody’s magic fingers – it changed to seeing the sentence “Back to school” everywhere.
For some families, that may bring out a scene of Happy Feet (tapping our way back into a nice reliable routine), however for many, kids and adults alike, the transition from summer holidays back to school can be a bumpy ride – especially considering the pandemic is still ongoing. Many of the kids are either going back into a classroom after a long period of e-learning or starting school for the first time. This change can bring up a lot of big feelings – like apprehension, stress or panic.
I’ve not been blessed with being a Mom yet, but from looking at some of my closest friends and connections through Peekado, I have nothing but admiration for parents. The situations we are having to face are completely new, no manual is provided but every day you show up as the ‘Lighthouse’ in your child’s world. Remember to be kind to yourself and know it’s ok to acknowledge that this transition may be hard, but you are doing your best.
Below are some mindfulness activities that you could introduce at home to help with the transition:
Talk about Feelings
Have you heard of the R.A.I.N acronym that can support kids and parents to mindfully explore their feelings? It’s a great tool that encourages reflection and helps calm our internal systems down. It stands for:
R: Recognize the feeling and name it (e.g., I feel nervous; I feel worried)
A: Allow the feeling to be there without judging it
I: Investigate slowly and gently about the feeling being there
N: Nourishment – what does he/she need to receive, hear or do in order to feel better right now?
Many of us know the special power that slow, deep breathing can have over our bodies – helping us to feel calmer and regulate our nervous system (there are many, many more benefits). It can be difficult to explain to young children about breathing techniques but when you apply it to a fun game/activity that they are familiar with, it might make it simpler – for example blowing bubbles!
Do you remember blowing bubbles as a child and the bubble would burst if you blew too quickly or strongly? By focusing on trying to blow big bubbles, children are encouraged to take a deep breath in and focus on their outward breath – breathing in a slow, calm way.
I saw this idea being shared previously and I think it’s a great way for children/teenagers to feel safe expressing their worries. Introduce a pile of post-it notes (multi-colour if you have) and encourage them to write down their worries and place it on the wall in a special place at home. This activity can be great to give little minds perspective on their feelings and increase their confidence in confiding in you. Once a week, visit the wall together and ask if the worry has now disappeared and remove it. If they’re not ready, then simply listen and revisit it another week.
Other suggestions to help make the transition easier:
Reconnect with parents from school
It doesn’t have to be only the children that get excited to see a familiar friendly face at school. If you feel comfortable meeting people, perhaps take this as an opportunity to arrange a playdate or a coffee morning (this could even be over zoom). Connecting with other parents can help reduce any anxiety by sharing concerns, having questions answered and generally feeling like you have another pillar of support.
Gradually shift back to early bedtimes and mornings
It’s important we make a conscious effort for all family members to get enough rest as it’s proven to help our mental health; immune systems and reduce stress. I know, sounds easier than it really is, we get accustomed to the late dinners, lazier mornings and perhaps having days where it’s been Pjs all day long (I’m a fan sometimes). Acclimating back to a school year schedule can be challenging, especially in the UAE where school starts way earlier (around 7.30 am) than where I grew up. If you’re finding it difficult to get a bedtime routine in place, make the shift gradually with each night being 10 minutes earlier until you reach your ideal timing. Add in a calming bedtime routine where the kids look forward to getting ready for bed – maybe it’s cuddling up with a story book or saying a loving prayer together. My favourite growing up was getting a mini foot massage from my grandmother (maybe not the best choice if your child is super ticklish).
Preparation is calming
It’s true what they say, preparation is a key to helping ease anxieties. When parents and kids feel prepared and ready, their morning and day will feel less stressful. Try include the kids in some small responsibilities of helping get ready for the next day – before bed make sure all items are back in their schoolbag and it’s waiting by the door. For older kids, you can encourage them to help you pack their lunch.
Some children may not be going to school yet and will be continuing with online learning, however these activities can still help create positive and lasting habits.
Special shout out to all the lovely teachers and school members who are working hard to provide safe learning environments for their students.
Remember, be kind to yourself and each other – always.