As mothers, we understand one of the most critical components to our children’s young lives is their education. Since it’s time to ring in a new school year, the contributors at Fairfield County Moms Blog wanted to share some tips, tricks, and words of wisdom to help you through this exciting, yet stressful time. Be sure to keep a look out for our Education Series posts all this week!
Extending My Practice
A few months back, I encouraged you to add mindfulness techniques as a way to diffuse your regular daily stressors. I hope you’ve found more peace and joy since then, and are now open to deepening and expanding your practice as we enter a new school year with our children.
School equals stress. I get it; I’m entering my 13th year of teaching. But I also know that school is so much more than the stress that parents often (and may only) hear about from their children. School is a second home, a safe place, a generator of gratitude. That is why I am taking a proactive approach at the start of this new school year both as a parent and a teacher. I want to introduce my kindergarten child and high school students to the daily practice of gratitude reflection.
How to Cultivate a Daily Routine
Instead of asking your child, “How was your day?” or “What did you learn at school today?” (which usually yields some bland one word response or quick summary sentence), find a comfortable place to sit and close your eyes. Take about a minute to settle into the silence. Then quietly say something along the lines of, “Think about and picture something that made you happy/ feel good/ smile/ thankful today.” In the first few days of practice, you should model possibilities like “remember something your friend did that was nice, a cool book your teacher read, a tasty item for lunch, etc.” Or you can begin by describing what grateful experience you are seeing in your mind’s eye. For older children who are able to write independently, you can sit side by side and jot down the first moments that come to mind (with eyes open, of course).
Once you’ve both isolated a moment, take about another minute to process its impact. Why/ how has that moment helped you rise above any stress that may have occurred today? Then, vocally share your thoughts with each other. As you listen to and watch each other, take note of the lightness that emanates from your body language.
The Circle of Gratitude
Your children may initially resist this practice, but please, keep at it during those first few weeks of school. I promise you, it is so incredibly worthwhile. You’ll learn about the moments in their school day that stood out and brightened their world. Maybe your child will describe not his/her fall from the monkey bars at recess, but the sweet words and embrace that a friend offered on a nearby bench. You might discover that your child wants to stay up late, not to be adversarial, but to bring a science lesson to life, conducting further research on some night animal or constellation. Maybe your child will teach you new mindfulness practices that have seamlessly appeared in the curriculum and school culture.
When particular details strike a chord with you, extend the gratitude. Contact the parent of that kind peer and set up a play date. Or just send a quick text or email to say “thank you for raising a great kid.” Contact your child’s teacher, guidance counselor, principal, and/ or coach to express your appreciation for their role in brightening your child’s world.
Every school year marks a fresh start. Let’s start and continue this year with a refreshing outlook about each and every school day. I thank you in advance, as a teacher, a parent, and an eternal student of mindfulness.