Whoa…this certainly was not in the manual! Back to school 2020 is confusing, stressful, worrisome and completely without a road map! What are us parents to do? Well, I have a few ideas and tips…Some rooted in yoga and some just ramblings of an unsure mom. My baby is a rising high school junior but some of this will apply to elementary age littles and some to teens.
I am quite sure that in 1789, Ben Franklin wasn’t referring to 2020 when he wrote “…in this world, nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes.”, but here we are, and this has never been more true. The upcoming school year is the perfect example. Virtual? In person? Hybrid? What is safe? What about the teachers and staff? And the list is endless. There is some good news here though: we know that we don’t know! In March, we had no idea what we didn’t know, and we were blindsided, had little time to prepare and plan, and schools had about a weekend to go 100% virtual! Now, we all are clear that things can, (and do!) change in the blink of an eye and we can try to plan accordingly! Woohoo!
Regardless of what your district has planned or if you have decided to go all virtual; have a plan and routine in place for what is now and what could be if everything closes down again. Even for those who are starting virtually by choice, a shutdown could change the format or schedule of the day. We have all heard a million times, kids need/crave routine!! My mom used to say, “limits are loving”, and yep, her voice just popped into my head as I typed it. Well, mom was right, and it’s true so have a schedule and routines! It’s never too early or too late to get the pieces in place! Bedtime, rise time, shower/bath time, meals & snacks, where is schoolwork done, chores, etc.…you get the gist!
Keep as many BTS traditions as possible! Shopping for supplies and clothes, haircuts, lunchbox snacks and whatever else you do at this time of year is important. This year may be different but it’s still the start of a new grade, new teacher, and perhaps even a new school. This stuff is a big deal to our little ones (and even the bigger ones!) and should be acknowledged as such. If getting out isn’t an option, shop online or enlist some help. If you are hybrid or virtual only, why not shop for back to school slippers along with shoes? Extra BTS P.J.’s even, make it fun! You can also find clever ways to distinguish between the work/school day and just being home, (for kids and parents who are working from home) even when it’s all under one roof. Years ago, when my guys were little, it was sometimes hard to have a phone conversation with a friend, let alone an important or business call. A fellow mom shared this tip which worked great! I bought a tiara from the dollar store (it came with a wand too, score!) and the kids learned that if the tiara was on my head there had better be blood if they were interrupting me! If your child loves hats, superhero capes, or maybe a unicorn headband but they aren’t allowed in school, wearing that item could be their special signal that school is in session!
It seems likely to me that we can expect our kids to move less this year. Team sports are in question, gym and recess will look different and even that walk to school or the bus stop may not happen. Keep that in mind when they get a little crazy, they need to get those ya-yas out! Some gentle movement first thing in the morning is good for everyone. Here is a short sequence to get some joints and spine ready for the day.
Start in a comfortable seated position. Take 3 breaths to settle into your space. Bring the left ear to the left shoulder, stretching out the right side of the neck. Let the shoulder hang as opposed to hiking it up to meet the ear. Hold for 3-5 breaths and repeat on the other side. Bring chin to chest, letting the weight of the head and gravity elongate the top of the spine. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Turn head to the left to look over left shoulder, hold for 3-5 breaths and repeat on other side. Place left hand on the floor next to the hip and right arm up to the sky, bend to the left, stretching right side of the body. Hold for 3-5 breaths and repeat on the other side. Stand up, feet hip width distance, arms to the side, palms facing the wall in front of you. Imaging a string from the top of your head pulling towards the ceiling to straighten your spine. Raise arms overhead and roll out writs in both directions. One at a time, lift each foot and roll out ankles in both directions. Raise arms overhead again and fold forward, fingertips towards the floor. Hold for 3-5 breaths. This should only take a few minutes and moves the spine and neck in all directions to slightly combat the screen time. Repeat throughout the day if possible…parents and caregivers too!
Consider ways that they can take short movement breaks throughout the day, even 2 minutes of jump rope can make a difference. Maybe go on a short walk after lunch, even teach them about walking meditation. (You can reach out to me and I’ll “walk” you through it! Haha!!). They can also do some meaningful breathing either to energize or to bring it down a notch or two.
· Younger kids can find it simpler to slow it down with a drawn-out, slow breath…” smell the cookies/blow out the candles” for 3-5 rounds.
· To release some “yuck” for all ages and to up the energy, standing up, inhale while raising the arms overhead and then exhale with a loud sigh while swinging arms down with the torso to a fold 3-5 times.
· Using an affirmation or mantra while slowing down the breath for 3-5 minutes can support the nervous system when it is amped up and bring it down. Something like “I am calm” or “inhale peace, exhale stress” repeated in the mind with the breath is a great place to start!
Suggest they keep a journal, either video or written. This is a great way to learn about oneself, release and sort out feelings and emotions, be creative, and chronicle this time in their lives. Some prompts they can use are…” today I feel…”, “I love when…”, “I get upset when…”, and the options are limitless. It is important to respect their privacy here, so no peeking!
If sleeping is problematic, or if their stress level is high, try Yoga Nidra. This translates to yogic sleep and is an extremely specific type of guided meditation that does wonders for the body and the nervous system. You can find videos of varying length on YouTube or hit me up for a suggestion.
It is crucially important that we all stay engaged with others right now, family and friends as well as community and the earth. Now is a great time to give back, for all of us. There are plenty of charities that need support but there are other ways…write letters to nursing home residents who have limited or no visitors, bake cookies for a rescue squad, sanitation department, or delivery drivers. Show the kids how to express gratitude even when they don’t feel like it, how to feel compassion and empathy; basically, how to care. I’m not saying you haven’t been doing this all along, but it bears repeating.
Here are a few other random ideas to make the most of this bizarre start to the school year:
· Focus on the positives! Less bullying, less drama (middle school girls, I see you!), less pressure to have the “perfect” clothes, sneakers, electronics, etc.….
· Look for an online course, group, or club to supplement the missing extra curriculars or find a new hobby or interest to fill that time.
· Continue to learn household and life skills. Cooking, laundry, time management, to-do lists, and even money management are a few.
· Set goals unrelated to school…learn a language that isn’t offered at school, do 100 push-ups, learn to crochet or knit, paint a masterpiece, write a poem, or practice yoga. (you know I had to throw that in there!)
· Do a search for “wellness wheel” and find a printable version for your child’s age group. Use this great tool to check in with them.
· Look up “students of the world” or “pen pal world”. Both are sites where you can find a pen pal in another country who shares interests with your child. Both are usable through their own platform without having to share personal info…check them out!
And finally, when (not if!), things go off the rails, routines fall apart, and this seems impossible…Let It Go!!! Re-group and start again! Maybe even schedule a family check in on Sundays to see what’s working and what can be changed for better flow the coming week. Remember, none of us have it all together in normal times so why in the world should we now? Be gentle with yourself and your kids, we’ve got this!