Back to School, Back to Routine: 4 Ways to Ease the Transition

billy-resting

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School had started and I got a phone call from a teacher who said that she was concerned about the recess behavior of our son. He was overly challenging to another boy and often interrupted other kids’ peaceful play. I hung up. I was exhausted, a little angry with the boy. He came home from school and I drew a deep breath. I gave him a snack of apples and peanut butter. I asked for the best and worst of his day (fishing, I admit, to see if he would bring it up). I waited and let him settle into being home, and then we talked about what the teacher had told me.

Transitions are sensitive times. Going from summer to fall schedules, waking up in the morning, coming home from work, from school, are brief windows of time that set the climate of what is to come. Our son was going through a rough patch. We had just moved to a new house. He was having nightmares. I understood this, but it took a mighty effort not to blast him when he walked through the door with the freight of a teacher’s concern. By waiting for the fatigue of school to move to the comfort of being home we could talk more reasonably without the double barrel shot of my frustration guiding the conversation.

Treat transitions delicately. A good one sets the tone of what will come next.

There are four simple things that can help your family transition from the glory of summer to the lock-step of an autumn filled with schedules: food, exercise, sleep, and time.

Foodkid20eating20yogurt

Keep mealtimes regular. Low blood sugar contributes to crankiness and tantrums. Keep the family fueled! Have healthy after-school snacks ready when they walk in the door and travel with finger food to share while in the car.  It is far easier to face life’s stresses with a full belly than when you are hungry.

Exercise

kids_running_on_grass(1)Kids need milk and vegetables, but they also need large portions of rocks and roots. Rocks for skipping, dirt for digging, puddles for splashing, trees for climbing, grass for somersaults. Even if your child is playing sports, there is nothing that can replace unstructured physical activity. Exercise is the great well-being elixir. It transforms sour moods, lifts spirits, and suddenly the world is an easier place to live in. Give your child a simple stop watch to time how fast she runs, how many jumps in a minute, how long it takes to turn 3 summersaults. Give him a shovel and ask for a deep hole. Park a distance away from the store, from pre-school, to a play date, and walk the 100 yards,taking your time. Make time spent outdoors a part of your daily routine.

Sleep

We all need it, but particularly children as they transition into the long days of school. Be firm about bedtime. Add an extra half hour to the bedtime ritual and use it to read a book together or talk about the day. Resist the siren call of technology when the kids are in bed and get more rest yourself. I guarantee you will be a better parent with 8 hours of sleep under your belt.IMVwYGjU

Time

There are two big time stealers in a family’s life:

1. Technology in the form of shows, the computer, television and games
2. Structured activities.

Limit technology. You are the boss! You get to decide how much is enough, not your son or daughter. Hold strong to your intention to add hours to your kids’ lives.

The motive for structured activities is a good one—teach my child to swim, play the piano, participate in soccer, learn ballet—but the outcome is often a fractured evening, tired kids, and a loss of interest in expressing passion for anything because Mom or Dad will sign me up for lessons and all I want to do is fool around with it. Wait until your child asks you (make that pleads with you) to sign up for an activity. Many times we sign our kids up only because all of his friends are participating, not because our child really wants to.

Graham Greene once said There is always one moment in childhood where the door opens and lets the future in.
That moment is in stretches of unimpeded time when the authentic self rises up, and rarely when a coach or a teacher is calling out directions. Time is one of the most precious gifts parents can give their children and you are the only one who can give it.

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