It’s an exciting, if somewhat nerve-wracking, time of year for kids and parents.
“I can’t wait for school to start!” may not be on the lips of every child, but you can bet it’s in the minds of most parents. Many of us are filled with mixed feelings – hope for our children’s success, as well as secret worries for their happiness.
Mostly, we’re dreading the frenetic pace of the “Hurry up, you’re going to miss the bus!” morning routines, the endless nudging and nagging homework battles, and the challenges of getting to bed on time, only to start the whole thing all over again.
Often we can feel like we’re in an endless race against the clock. “There’s just not enough time!” We subtly begin to experience tension, frustration, even resentment. We mindlessly multi-task our way through a never quite done To-Do list.
We snap at our kids. They snap back. Or act out. Or avoid. Or dilly-dally or daydream or… Do anything except what we want them to do, right now!
We probably don’t realize it, but we are building up a toxic level of stress in our bodies and minds.
Under the strain of the daily demands of modern life, we get stuck repeatedly in our brain’s automatic “fight or flight” stress response. Our hearts and minds are often racing. Our muscles are instinctively contracting – furrowed brow, clenched jaw, hunched shoulders, tightened chest and gut and bowels.
We’re continuously secreting the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline – living life in a state of hyper-drive and reactivity.
And sadly, so are our children.
What Can You Do?
The end result of this crazy-busy lifestyle is a chronic feeling of overwhelm and exhaustion. I see it every day in school-age kids, their parents, and their teachers.
So, what can you do to help your child not just survive, but truly thrive this school year? Here are 3 key ingredients to any successful stress management strategies.
- Awareness – PAUSE to notice what is happening right now – around you, within you, within your child. Attend to what is happening, here in this moment. Don’t get lost in thought worrying about all the what-ifs or woulda/coulda/shoulda’s. See clearly what is before you, with an open mind.
- Acceptance – BREATHE, slowly and calmly, and make peace with what is. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval; you don’t have to like it. But you can either keep fighting reality, or acknowledge and accept it, with an open heart.
- Aligned Action – RESPOND thoughtfully, with loving and open arms, rather than reacting emotionally or impulsively. When you bring a kind and curious attention to the present situation (late for the bus, struggles with homework, peer problems, etc.), then you are freer to help your child make wise choices for what to do about it.
Pause. Breathe. Respond.