7 Back-to-School Tips to Help You Stress Less and Find Your Center

Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, the start of a new school year offers the opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to do things differently.

If you’re feeling some anxiety around all the transitions, scheduling, juggling and driving that usually accompany a new school year, take a deep breath, you’re not alone. Then, pause and consider the following ideas. Adopting even one of these strategies could make a huge difference in how you experience this potentially hectic time. Start with compassion and a “baby steps” mindset as you consider the following:

  1. Identify what’s #1 for your family this fall. What values or new ways of being are most important to you in the coming months? Perhaps creating a calm morning routine, eating dinner together more often, identifying “screen free” zones, developing a good homework routine or mapping out a game plan for regular communication between family members? Decide what’s at the top of your list and then enlist family member’s help to make this a priority.
  2. Set yourself up for success by enlisting a support team. What type of support do you and your family need to feel grounded and balanced as you transition into the new season? Perhaps a tutor or parenting coach, a new carpool team, a source for ready-made healthy meals, a neighbor that can help out in a pinch or a couple of back-up baby sitters? Line up help now and post your “support team” list and numbers in your kitchen where the whole family can see it.
  3. Schedule replenishing nature respites. Being in nature elicits a relaxation response; it helps us shed worries and restore and replenish our bodies and minds like nothing else. Pull out your calendar and schedule some family hikes, a father/son camping trip, a visit to a country, cabin, or lake house over a holiday break, or a potluck at a nearby park with your neighbors or friends.
  4. Do less to experience more. In our office, we love the mantra, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” A key cause of stress is ambition and trying to do too much. Researchers in the field of positive psychology say we’re happiest when we have fewer options and decisions to make. What can you say “no” to so you can simplify your family’s life? Our quality of life is enhanced not by adding things, but by letting go of that which we don’t need.
  5. Reign in technology use. In a recent survey on emotional health, families across the U.S. said overuse and misuse of technology was the top culprit for derailing their family’s well-being and sense of connectedness. Create some clear media guidelines for how and when your kids can be online, play video games or use other devices. Consider turning off all devices and putting them to “bed” at 8:30 p.m. each night (this applies to parents, too!). Maybe designate “screen free zones” or times in your home. Many families also are finding having a landline helps with screening calls and preserving precious family time in the evenings and on the weekends (we love our land line!). Lastly, don’t be afraid to change or update these policies often.
  6. Decide how you’ll communicate as a family. Regular, open, heartfelt communication is key to people feeling heard, seen, safe and secure and knowing their ideas matter; especially when schedules are full. Some families have weekly communication meetings (post an agenda on the fridge and have your children add items to the list that they want to cover), some parents have Sunday evening planning meetings after the kids go to bed and others adopt practices as simple as everyone sharing a “thumbs up and thumbs down” at dinner each night. When and how you communicate will vary from family to family.
  7. Designate weekends for rest and relaxation (as best you can!). While it’s easy to stack our weekends with errands, household cleaning, social activities, sports and more, weekend time is sacred. The primary purpose of this 48 hour break is to rejuvenate and restore your energy reserves so you can return to work and school Monday with a fresh, excited outlook—ready to learn and take on new projects. While spending the weekend in a hammock may be unrealistic, realize rest and relaxation are essential to problem solving, idea generation and creativity for both adults and kids. At least a portion of your weekend—and maybe all day Sunday– should be devoted to physical and emotional renewal.

Now is a great time to mindfully reflect on what worked and didn’t work for your family last fall. Then, together explore how you might implement some of these strategies—or others—now so you enter the new school year feeling cool, calm and connected.

More ideas, exercises, mediations and inspiration on how to reconnect, stress less and experience more balance and harmony in everyday life in Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life (New World Library) by Renee Trudeau.

Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally-recognized coach/speaker/author and president of Career Strategists. The author of three books on balanced living, including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal, her work has appeared in the New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. On the faculty of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness, and Omega Institute and Esalen Institute, she lives in Austin, TX with her husband and 13 year-old son. www.ReneeTrudeau.com

Renee-Headshot-REVStress less this fall by joining Renee Sept. 10-Oct. 1 for a brand new telecourse designed for women age 40+: Embracing the Wild Unknown: Nurturing Yourself in Midlife & Beyond.

Wondering as They’re Wandering

Musical PlayI recently overheard a concerned parent talking to another parent after class about how her child, “just won’t sit down”. She expressed her concern that maybe her child wasn’t getting as much out of the class anymore. He used to sit in her lap and seem very interested in the songs but now he just wanders around the room. I felt lucky to be within earshot of what they were saying and was able to join in on the conversation and share some of what we know about different learning styles and stages of development. 
It is easy to feel like you’re child isn’t “getting it” when they are wandering around the room, staring out the window or engaging wholly with another child. However, here is the research-based, black and white truth: between the ages of birth through 5, your child is a sponge and is absorbing everything! If you’re in the classroom, you can trust he’s picking up and digesting all of those important musical vitamins!
When I was interning with another Heartsong Teacher, I had the unique opportunity to observe for a few weeks before joining in the class, and it was magical! These observations ended up playing a significant role in my final decision to become a Music Together teacher and I’d love to share why by telling you about one of my observations.
We were singing a song with eggs when a toddler exited his father’s lap and started teetering around the room. The father did the perfect thing and just kept singing and shaking his eggs. After a minute the little boy came back over to where his father was sitting, and began to bounce in perfect time to the song! He was at an angle where neither the teacher or his parent was able to see this musical response, and after 30 seconds of bouncing with the song he went back to wandering around the room.
I like to call this behavior “wondering as they’re wandering”, because the child is TOTALLY tuned in to what is happening while he is processing the sights and sounds of the class in a way that looks less involved. As he is wandering around, staring out the window, or engaging in “tribe-like” activities with other children, his mind is wondering about everything he is seeing, hearing and feeling. He is processing this information in a very pure and un-filtered way because we aren’t focusing on his performance of the music.
Allowing your child to wonder as he wanders is so important! Resist the urge to create an expectation that he needs to spend the entire class in your lap or play the instruments in a conventional, ordinary way. Relax, have fun, and show your child that music making is fun by singing and moving freely yourself! This is the best thing you can do for him as he continues digesting all these musical vitamins and building his musical competency.
Until next time.
Sally Nava
Music Together Teacher

The Joy of Family Music

Heartsong Music teaches Music Together®, the internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through grade two and the adults who love them.

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