Written by Mireya Mata.
I’m sure everyone is already tired of hearing the back to school anthem from Staples “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Although many parents out there are ready for the school year to begin, others are a little nervous about change and transition in their kids' lives. Remember when you were a kid? At some point we all wished we didn’t get the mean teacher or that we finally get the chance to be in the same class as our best friend. We can also agree that children today deal with so much more than what we dealt with as kids. This highly anxious world sucks sometimes!
As a mom and educator I can tell you that how we begin the school year makes a big difference. Along with getting my super active son back into a routine, I am also continuing to help him build on his self awareness and self-advocacy skills. But in order to do that we spent the summer really working of emotional awareness. Role playing, environmental observation, building on emotional literacy, meaningful discussions and attending lots of fun mindful family events. As an educator I spent the first few months working with some parents and students on joint goals and practices that help the development of emotional intelligence. To be honest, this is not always an easy task. And to be more honest, in a world that values the tangible like academic success and grades, emotional intelligence doesn’t always become people’s priority.
I wanted to share some family care tips to get your kids emotionally ready for what can be an anxious beginning of a new school year:
TIP 1: Morning Emotional Scan
Take note of how your child’s emotional state is in the morning. We have all experienced the “morning grumpy pants” and not just from our partners. Being aware if your child is lacking sleep, had a fight with a sibling or hate their morning class subject can help understand how the rest of the day will unfold. If you have a hunch that Mr. or Ms. grumpy pants in the morning will carry these emotions to school...speak up. It is so awesome when parents let me know their kid didn’t have breakfast or is annoyed about something that happened at home. That open communication whether oral or in a communication log makes a big difference. The teacher can and should be able to help with some emotional down time or just space to process. And yes I know mornings are crazy for parents and teachers are always so busy, but acknowledging the emotional cues our kids give off are key to help them build emotional intelligence. It just leads to better communication and awareness for everyone.
TIP 2: Make Space for the Sweet and Sour
With school, work and driving the kids to their after school activities; things can get hectic. Schedule time to share the sweet and sour of the day. Whether it's on the ride home or at the dinner table, have a set time to share together. Yes that also includes you the parents! Oh and make sure it is a tech free zone. Role model practices are best received when we part take. If you have a kid who has mastered the “meh,” “nothing” or “good” as the go to responses - try taking off the pressure to share the sweet and sour by having something that I call the “Sweet and Sour Jar.” Everyday they can write on a post-it note the sweet and sour of their day and place it in the jar. At the end of the week you will have a jar full of sweet and sour moments for your whole family to share.
TIP 3: Manage Emotions Through Self-Care
The task of managing your work schedule and the kids schedule makes it easy to forget or avoid your self-care patterns. As an educator and mom, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care...but more importantly “family care.” Schedule, make time, hold space and make “family care” a priority especially on those stressful days or after a busy week. Model self-care practice like going for walk, working out, meditation, being with nature, dancing, breathing exercises (pranayama), yoga, etc. By the time you and your kids know, it self-care will become second nature.
Sending the parents love and patient vibes. May you breath and smile in gratitude as you see your kids off to another school year.
Sending school children/youth love and courageous vibes. May you own who you are and breath through each emotion.
Sending my fellow educators love and strengthening vibes. May you blast your students with love and care.
As an educator in the community and education system for more than 16 years, she has witnessed the increasing need for youth to find connection, self awareness and empowerment. She has a specialized background in working with children and teens, dealing with mental health issues, learning and behavioural challenges. Mireya has led workshops to support mindfulness, creativity, emotional intelligence, self- awareness and self-advocacy.
As a mom of a highly spirited son, she has put to practice many of the tools she shares with others. She has seen how a mindful lifestyle has influenced so many
children including her own become more confident, better at self-regulation and able to communicate their needs.