By Guest Blogger - Amanda Hunter
August is upon us and that means it’s back to school time at our household! Summer flew by so fast that I can barely wrap my head around another school year starting up. Homework, after school activities, PTO responsibilities, sports, extracurriculars, meal prepping are just a few examples of my back-to-school to-do list. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. However, I have a goal this year to not get overly stressed about the busyness of school life. Instead, I’m going to focus on staying present with my family and maintaining balance for our household.
Since my daughter is going into 4th grade and my son will be entering 1st, we’re already aware of how long, stressful, demanding and tiring school can be for them. Last year when my son was in kindergarten, it took him most of the first semester to adjust from the Pre-K schedule to those lengthy "big kid" days. Both kids will probably take several weeks to get used to the routine again. And that’s ok! We will all eventually find our own way to adapt to the routine.
Mindful Tip #1 - Schedule Free Time
One way I plan to help my family through this process is by avoiding the infamous schedule overload. Too many weekly activities can lead to full-on meltdowns in our household. Soccer Monday, dance Tuesday, theater Wednesday, soccer Thursday. Don’t forget about squeezing homework in the middle!
Now that my daughter is in 4th grade, she will have more academic expectations and responsibilities. I think it’s vital to make time not only for homework, but for rest and play as well. Instead of rushing off to the daily scheduled activity, why not swing by the park for an hour for some free play? Down time from scheduled “work” can have a hugely positive effect on a child’s behavior and outlook on life. I want my kids to see that life isn’t just a rat race from one thing to another; we need to slow down for a few moments and enjoy what life offers.
Mindful Tip#2 - Make Breakfast Together
Another way I’m going to ease the back-to-school stress is by allowing my kids to actively participate in morning routines beyond the normal get dressed, brush your teeth and make your bed. Why not have the kids help with breakfast certain days of the week? This way each kid can have a turn to make a breakfast of their choice while the rest of the family enjoys. Invoking even a small sense of responsibility can bring a sense of self accomplishment before they step foot out the door.
Mindful Tip#3 - Set Positive Intentions
Starting the day with a positive intention individually and as a family is a great way to bring mindfulness to our actions throughout the day. For example, each family member can say out loud, “Today, I am going to smile more." Or the whole family together can say, "We will be kind to others today!”
Mindful Tip#4 - Breathe
Before heading out the door, we can also sit down and take five deep, cleansing breaths. Breathing slowly and mindfully helps to reduce stress and allows one to think more rationally. Additionally, I hope to work in a quick yoga sequence with my family in the morning. Even just a couple of minutes of stretching and moving with breath can create a good platform to have body awareness and mindfulness for yourself. On a personal note, those mornings where I can sneak in a quick yoga sequence really sets a positive tone and outlook for my day.
Mindful Tip#5 - Early to Bed
We try to get our kids in bed around 8:00, so that they will be reasonably well-rested for the next day. Although it's true that some people can survive on less sleep than others, children (and adults) who get ample sleep typically function better throughout the day than kids who are sleep deprived.
Mindful Tip#6 - Eat Well
Good health also ties in to what we put in our stomachs. Now, please don’t assume we’re a family with overly strict dietary guidelines because we’re not! We do enjoy things like cookies and ice cream, and we usually devour pizza once a week. In addition to the occasional “fun” foods, I encourage my family to eat “healthy” foods most of the time. Each meal needs to include a fruit and/or veggie. We primarily drink water, and I usually need a cup of coffee a few times of week (with my yummy creamer!). I also try to cook or have meals at home during the week. Not only is this healthier, it’s also cheaper!
Mindful Tip#7 - Limit Device Time
In this electronic age, we carefully monitor our kids time on phones/computers/iPads. Thankfully, our kids don’t have their own devices right now, and we restrict them to no more than 20 minutes of play on our devices after homework is done. We want them to know how to use them; we just don't want them to abuse them.
Mindful Tip#8 - Love On Them!
Finally, I want to make sure our kids fully understand they are unconditionally loved and appreciated. I also want them to believe in and love themselves. Regardless of what happens with their grades or their interactions among their peers, home will always be their safe and accepted space. At the end of this school year, I want to be able to reflect and feel as though it was busy but not stressful. That we had activities, but not too many. That we had time to play between homework and projects. That we learned how to keep life moving but see the beauty in each moment. My hope for our family and for everyone else’s is to find peace in the chaos, beauty in the scary and balance through everything.
Amanda Hunter is one of our esteemed Live Free Yoga instructors and Social Media Assistant. She lives in Richardson, Texas with her husband, Johnny and 2 beautiful children, Emma and Blake. Click HERE to learn more about Amanda and a few of our other Live Free Yoga instructors.