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Riding the Wave to September


How do you help your family transition from summer vacation to the structure of September?

Can you feel it in the air? That shift, the subtle transition, beckoning change?

End of Summer

In other words, are your children acting end-of-summer antsy and sort of crotchety with one another? Haha!

And what about you? Are you ready for them to be back – in school, in a different routine, or whatever schedule that autumn brings for your family?

When I was growing up, right about now, at this point of the summer, I was aware of the end of summer vacation looming. Even though most children get excited about their birthday, for me, having a birthday at the end of the summer marked the end of … being footloose and fancy free.

It wasn’t about not liking school, because I really liked being in school and learning about what was offered. I simply struggled with the change. The end of one thing and the beginning of another.

Perspective Change

What are the changes that you notice in your children at this time of year?

What are you parents experiencing at this pivotal time of year?

I noticed how different my perspective became when I was a parent. Oh, I still experienced the pang of not wanting my children to go to school, like what I experienced as a child, as well as I could hardly wait for the school schedule to start up again. More chuckling…hahaha!

This whole time of end-of-summer transition can really discombobulate individual family members and possibly derail the whole family. There are a few ways to acknowledge this unique transition to release the tension instead of building and brewing the stress.

Where is the Stress Coming From?

Notice the stresses which are external (“I NEED these…clothes/school supplies/phone, etc”), internal (“I’m not going to bed/can’t sleep…”) or founded in belief or value systems (“Eat everything on your plate.”, “Boys don’t do those chores.”, “Girls always hog the bathroom.” , “Parents must be the boss and set all the rules to follow.” etc.)

Children as Consumers

There is a bombardment by media to children as consumers and suddenly they become insistent and demanding about having certain clothing and back to school supplies at this time of year. We can guide children into being discerning shoppers.

Invite your children to become an observer of the outside pressures they sense, luring them to purchase some object. Encourage them to make a list of what they believe they need or have an urge to own and re-visit the list honing it to within reason.

Fortunately, when it is time to make a purchase, the market for purchasing has expanded generously so parents and children can find many sales to purchase new or “new to you” items.

Thirty-five years ago, my children thought Christmas was happening at the end of the summer when they would receive bags of “hand-me-downs” from their older cousins. Today, online marketplaces, auctions and in-person gently used clothing stores contribute to a feel-good new clothing experience for children which is also financially feasible for parents.

Sleep Routines

Adjusting from a relaxed summer bedtime to a schedule which encourages being properly rested for a 7 am (or earlier) wake up and full day at either daycare or school is not easy.

Contribute to a successful nighttime sleep by preparing the wind down time accordingly. Wind down for bed starts with wake up for the day! Outside play or a walk in the morning helps to set the internal clock to begin to seek sleep in the evening.

From ample outside play to being hydrated and nourished throughout the day, after dinner, wind down gets pretty serious. Thrilling movies and videos can arouse children so consider offering a different type of viewing.

For some children bath time contributes to settling down. The last bathroom visit, kisses and hugging for at least 20 seconds from parents, (yes, this too, influences the brain in a calming manner, in preparation of sleep), allows a body to transition to sleep.

Sleep habits are established from infancy and some children may require more contact for longer, to assist them with settling down to sleep. Don’t deny them human contact, positive nurturing touch is an essential need.

Screen vs. Storytime

I realize many people reading this may question the next statement, yet evidence proves that having no television, no computer or tablet/ipad or phone available, playing movies, video games or all-night messaging, is ideal for optimum sleep.

 Research proves that children don’t fall asleep by watching a movie, they pass out from exhaustion, and the blue light from the device hinders the brain from going into a vital brain cleansing deep sleep.

Consider swapping out the movie or video for a parent or caregiver telling a story. Children like to hear stories about themselves, pets or made-up silly characters. It doesn’t always have to be a book at bedtime, an oral story is beneficial too.

Which preparing-for-sleep habit would you like to initiate in your household? Keep in mind, a new schedule takes at least six weeks before it becomes familiar, or routine.

Family Meetings

One way to ride the wave of change is to have regular family meetings, talking openly about what is coming up, and how family members can participate in the creation of a new schedule.

Family meetings offer an opportunity for each member to have a voice, to be heard and to be a member of the “management team”. While parents are still the adults responsible for aspects like safety, shelter, food, finances, etc, children can be included in the decision-making process to a certain degree, instilling in them the importance of sharing information, discussing, valuing perspectives from all family members, and contributing to decision making.

Agendas for family meetings include more than just assignment of chores; it might be planning fun overnights with friends, vacations/day trips, ways to celebrate holidays, social meals and birthdays; or a tool to improve the communication between family members.

I remember when my family happened to be talking about chores and the frequency certain chores would be done, and by whom, and it seemed like the schedule was just becoming a habit when it started to fall apart. We struggled. What was happening?

Well, the season had changed from autumn into winter and the extracurricular sport and club schedules had shifted nights, plus it was getting darker, earlier, so the schedule wasn’t smooth anymore, no longer efficient with all things jiving. Chores went back on the family meeting agenda to be re-worked!

Even that experience of it falling apart, contributed to the process and guided our children to be flexible, to be encouraged to give voice when something wasn’t working and how to be a confident team member expressing frustration respectfully.

Contemplate some challenging moments experienced within your family in the past few weeks (or days). What title, or topic or theme would you give the challenging moment? How could having this topic on a family meeting agenda contribute to bringing more openness, compassion and willingness to problem solve with all family members?

An Anchor

Remember, just because you offer family members a joyful “good morning” and a calm “good night” does not mean they will reciprocate those greetings to you.

It does mean, though, that you are providing a framework which is predictable to them, and children find that reassuring. It is like an anchor, keeping steady, in a tumultuous sea of daily interactions.

As one school age child told me yesterday: “My mom would always sing “You are My Sunshine” to me at bedtime, and when I’m upset, that’s a song I sing to myself.” An anchor. Of calm.

Even though likely, the child was not always happy about it being time to go to bed, the co-regulating practice of singing a calm song instilled an awareness and habit for them to use the song as a means to regulate their own emotions when times were challenging.

As you ride the waves throughout August into September, may you be well and have a deep well from which to draw and nurture yourself to be with all that arises.