Conscious Parenting Inspirations – September 2014

IMG_0647

“Parenting is one of the most challenging, demanding, and stressful jobs on the planet. It is also one of the most important, for how it is done influences in great measure the heart and soul and consciousness of the next generation, their experience of meaning and connection, their repertoire of life skills, and their deepest feelings about themselves and their possible place in a rapidly changing world.” Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

As the seasons change from summer to fall in our old neighborhood, we are consciously grateful for the “year-long summer” here in Southeast Asia that keeps the pools open and the parks welcoming. I have had to be even more conscious of my parenting this month, as we work to form and settle into a new routine. As the seasons change, as our circumstances change, as our children change, it helps to be conscious of the changes, how they affect our children and our families and how we can respond to them in a way that strengthens or maintains our family harmony. This month, I’ve tried to be more conscious of the changes by scheduling quality time, making self-care a priority and enjoying the fruits of my efforts as motivation to keep on track.

Scheduling Quality Time

One challenge I have been facing these days, common to most parents of more than one young child, is how to spend quality time with each and to make the most of the time we all share together. While, I know it is not easy, or even possible, for everyone depending on children’s ages and family circumstances, scheduling quality time has been a positive changing in our family. Because my daughter is in preschool in the mornings, I am able to spend a good portion of focused time with my son. Because he is our second child, and a much calmer, easy-going child, much of his first two years was spent riding around in my arms, chasing after his sister. But now, I can focus solely, going on morning adventures or just staying home and playing his favorite games. Through this time, we’re deepening our connection and making more happy memories.

With the morning over and both children home and awake, I had little opportunity for similar quality time with my daughter. Upon seeing how distressed she became when we arrived home and she had to immediately share my attentions with her younger brother, I found child care arrangement that would allow us to come home a little later a few days a week, so she has that special time just with me before arriving home, and it has made a tangible difference in how she greets her brother upon arriving home and in her disposition for the rest of the afternoon. And because I am able to spend the morning with my son, I don’t feel so guilty coming home a little later. If you don’t have the luxury of time, something as simple as turning off the radio in the car or taking a few minutes to play (or sit and talk with older children) when you are reunited may be appreciated. For ideas for scheduling one-on-one time if your time is more limited read Five Ways to Spend More Time with Your Kids When You Have No Time on Lifehack, Simple Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids or for a more structured approach, read AHA! Parenting’s post on scheduling Special Time.

Making Self-Care a Priority

Another challenge this month has been handling the stress of daily life in a healthy manner and not letting it adversely affect my parenting. Stress affects us all, regardless of our life circumstances, family situation or geographic location. If unchecked, it can easily bubble over into our parenting in the form of shorter tempers, less patience and less focused attention. In order to avoid this, I have been working to make my own self-care a priority. Whether it is relaxing over a cup of tea in the evenings after the kids are in bed, making time for regular exercise or taking a few minutes to journal during the day, a small investment in self care brings far greater rewards in the time I spend with my children. In her book, The Life Organizer,  A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year (gender specifics aside, this could also work for men), Jennifer Louden talks about the idea of Minimum Daily Requirements.  I love this term because, like food, water and shelter, your Minimum Daily Requirements are the minimum necessities to be your best self each day. While massages, vacations and therapy sessions might do wonders for our mental health, minimum daily requirements are more basic habits, integral to daily well-being. For me, exercise, getting outdoors, connecting with family and friends and finding time to reflect each day, keep me balanced. When I start feeling off, upon closer inspection, I usually find I am neglecting my Minimum Daily Requirements.

Enjoying the Fruits of My Efforts

Parenting, especially parenting high needs, spirited or other children with special needs, can be a demanding, often thankless job, with little immediate positive results of your efforts. However, once in a while, a spontaneous display of affection, an introspective question or an un-prodded act of kindness from our children helps us to see that something we are doing is working. I have had  a few such moments this month that helped to remind me that it is worth it to take the extra time and effort to be patent, to be kind, to be thoughtful in how I respond to and interact with my children.

After regularly discussing our snuggle tanks (discussed in Conscious Parenting Inspirations – August 2014), my spirited four-year-old has become more conscious of her need for connection. While, she still has strong, emotional outbursts, now, sometimes, instead of being inconsolable or aggressive, she will come and say, “I need a snuggle,” knowing that a sense of disconnection is often the source of her upset and a “snuggle” is a great way to restore her balance. Additionally, after a few months of loving kindness meditation as part of our bedtime routine (Conscious Parenting Inspirations – June 2014), she noticed  a family in the rain and decided that she would send them loving kindness because they “only had a small umbrella.” And finally, as we have been connecting more though our morning and evening routines and our scheduled quality time, I have become the recipient of many more spontaneous hugs and kisses.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you had any Conscious Parenting Inspirations this month? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

A Less Conscious Life

storm

Everything with no exception is a choice. The choice can be either conscious or unconscious depending on the level of self-awareness. The more self-aware we become, the faster we can make our unconscious choices known to us.” – Raphael Zernoff

I’ve been living less and less consciously as the days go by and I am quite frustrated with myself. Not only because I truly want to live a more conscious life, but because I feel like a fraud. How can I write about living consciously, when I spend so much time in my own head, when I haven’t committed to a regular meditation routine, when I continually react, rather than respond; when I hear myself, over and over, parenting on auto-pilot, doing things I said I do not want to do again. I’ve been running on empty, spending my days taking care of everyone else, running from home to school, from school to home, feeling pulled in three different directions at once and never able to satisfy anyone.

I’m sure at lot of this sounds familiar to parents out there or others with over-committed lives. I’m exhausted, frustrated and disappointed in myself. I need a new plan. I hear my mother laughing in my head because all my life has been a serious of plans: plans dreamed up, plans written down, plans followed, plans dropped, plans made anew. But here I am again, needing a new plan. Because I really want this to work. I really want to live a more conscious life. I want to be more present, more joyful, more alive.

But it isn’t easy.

Sleepwalking through life is easy. Reacting is easy. Lashing out when you are tired, overwhelmed and angry is easy. Living consciously is not easy.

But I need to do it for my children, for my partner, for my family, for myself.

So here is my plan:

1. Start journalling again to bring more consciousness and reflection to my days.

2. Make a list of reminders of how to live more consciously and put it in a prominent place.

3. Put my to-do list in a place I can check it regularly to keep from feeling overwhelmed.

4. Come up with a thoughtful way to handle the afternoons at home with the kids so everyone’s needs are met.

5. Make a schedule to get regular exercise and stick to it.

6. Put my Conscious Parenting Notebook somewhere I will refer to it daily.

And now to forgive myself for my transgressions, pick myself up off the floor and allow myself a new beginning. Because after all, that is what living a more conscious life is all about. Every moment is a new beginning. Every moment is another choice.

Every moment is another opportunity to be present,

to be grateful,

to be forgiving,

to be joyful,

to be loving,

to be alive.

Thanks for reading! (And listening!)

What about you? Have you had less than conscious periods in your life? What did you do to get back on track? I’d love to hear what has worked for you!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting PEACE WEEK – Reasons, Rules and Reflections

 

 

IMG_0672

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”Albert Einstein

The word retreat may bring to mind visions of peaceful solitude in a mountaintop meditation center or yogis practicing by the sea and sipping tea in a perfectly manicured garden. However, as Jon Kabat Zen writes in Everyday Blessings, The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, “from the perspective of mindfulness, parenting can be viewed as a kind of extended and, at times, arduous meditation retreat spanning a large part of our lives. And our children, from infancy to adulthood and beyond, can be seen as perpetually challenging live-in teachers, who provide us with ceaseless opportunities to do the inner work of understanding who we are and who they are, so that we can best stay in touch with what is truly important and give them what they most need in order to grow and flourish.” While seeing all of our parenting years as a “retreat” may be a bit difficult, taking one week to work at being more conscious is more manageable and can be a great way to really focus your efforts in the area of conscious parenting. 

REASONS

Unlike people with unwavering self-control, I tend to need external motivation or accountability to follow through with most things I set out to accomplish – hence the need for this blog :) My PEACE WEEK retreat idea is in that same vein. I try to be more conscious in my parenting on a regular basis, but so easily, it seems, I fall back into unhelpful patterns of behavior that lead to more struggle and less joy in my parenting and my relationship with my daughter. Sometimes a break or a mental check-in helps to get me back on track, but when I’ve fallen back into a long stretch of unconscious parenting, I need more than a gentle reminder to dig myself out. And typically it is when I find myself exasperated at my daughter’s rapidly de-escalating behaviors that I realize that it might be time for some recalibration. I usually make a note of the challenges we are facing and try to come up with alternative ways of addressing them. PEACE WEEK allows me to set a personal commitment, for one week, to really focus on my parenting in those moments and make changes where things aren’t working. Whatever structure, time period and guidelines motivate you to stick to a plan, should be those that you use in your individual PEACE WEEK (or ZEN WEEK, HAPPY WEEK, MINDFUL WEEK, etc.), should you chose to try one.

RULES or GUIDELINES

Once I have committed to another PEACE WEEK, I create a set of guidelines, that aren’t meant to be a cause for upset if they are “broken,” but rather to act as reminders of the things you want to do to help yourself be a more conscious parent.  

My PEACE WEEK rules this time around are similar to those from my previous PEACE WEEK:

  1. No Screen Time When Children are Present.
  2. Practice Pausing and Noticing My State of Mind Throughout the Day
  3. Limited Speech (Three Breaths before “Reacting”)
  4. Morning and Evening Self-Care (Morning Yoga / Evening Tea and Meditation)
  5. Quality Time with Each Child Each Day

This time, I also wanted to work to model our HUGS (not Hurts) approach to rising frustration, which I’ve been talking about and using with my daughter for a few weeks now, but haven’t been modelling it myself. Whenever my daughter starts to get frustrated or angry with her brother, I ask her “HUGS or Hurts?” and give her our four options for dealing with frustration (HUGS – H: ask for Help, U: Use your words, G: Go take a break, or S: Stop and breathe). 

Additionally, I wanted to try to more consistently use other conscious parenting techniques, such as using mantras, acknowledging positive behaviors, giving options, etc.) It is so easy to fall back to less conscious parenting methods unless we’re, well, conscious, and I’ve been conscious lately of my tendency to use a lot of threats or two unappealing choices to “motivate” her to do what I ask her to do. 

And finally, I wanted to try to use the same words when addressing similar behaviors to help ingrain them into her memory. When you repeat the same message over and over, in the same way, it has more of a chance of sticking with them, than if you alter your words every time.

Ultimately, like a fast or genuine retreat, I just wanted a set timeline and self imposed structure in which to hold myself accountable to the conscious parenting practices I seem to have lost somewhere in the Atlantic on the way to South East Asia.

REFLECTIONS

Probably the most important part of PEACE WEEK is your reflections, whether you jot them down throughout the day, or take time in the evenings to think through your interactions with your children, both positive and not-so-positive and allow yourself the time and space for creative problem solving, “aha!” moments, or mental pats on the back when something you tried worked well. 

I was going to share my personal reflections on my current peace week here, but ultimately, I want this blog to be helpful to others and my detailed reflections only represent the current situation in my unique family and are most likely not very interesting or helpful to anyone else, so I decided to spare my readers. However, if you have any questions or comments to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you think you might benefit from a personal parenting retreat? If you try one, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

 

PEACE WEEK – A CONSCIOUS PARENTING RETREAT

background-2361_640

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

The following is taken from The Conscious Parenting Notebook.

Before I had children, I attended a 10-Day Buddhist Meditation Retreat. Before participants could begin, we had a to sign a contract stating that we would commit to following all of the rules, which included following a strict waking, eating and meditation schedule; residing in monastic-style dorms; keeping a vow of silence; not writing, reading or using media of any kind and staying for the entire 10 day period. I was able to accept, if not enjoy, all of these rules, except the one that forbade writing. I knew that many thoughts would come to me throughout those 10 days and I knew that without recording them, they would be lost forever. I didn’t want to forget, so, clandestinely, I wrote and am glad that I still have those lessons and memories today.

I recently applied a retreat mentality to my parenting. My parents were coming to stay for a week and my interactions with my then three-year-old daughter had become a bit less than loving and empathetic. So I decided to take drastic action. I called for a self-imposed “Peace Week,” to focus on my parenting and work to improve my relationship with my daughter. My rules were as follows:

  1. No Sugar (outside of honey in my tea)
  2. Limited Computer Screen Time to 3 Times a Day (When I was not with my children)
  3. Limited Speech (I wanted to impose a no-talking rule, but found that to be too difficult)
  4. An Attempt at Conscious Awareness of My Own Moods and Feelings
  5. An Attempt at Conscious Kindness and Empathy in Responding to my Children at All Times

The limited sugar and screen time came out of my realization that when I was getting overwhelmed with parenting, I tended to seek out comfort or escape through sugar or email. Instead I used these urges as a reminder to check in with my feelings and reconnect with my children.

The limited speech came from my awareness of my tendency to lecture my daughter at a level above her age and maturity when she did something I had asked her not to do, and I thought that silence or at least a pause in my initial reaction would be an improvement.

The conscious awareness of my own moods and reminder to act with kindness and empathy to my children came from the fact that I knew that my moods greatly impacted how I treated my children and I wanted to work on being more responsive to them and the situation rather than reacting based on my mood.

Throughout the week, I kept a journal and each evening, I would write down the things I did well, the things that I could improve and insights I had gained. It was a lot of work and I failed and faltered a bit, but through reflection on those times, as well as the positive ones, I learned a lot. And most importantly, by the end of the week, I had improved my relationship with my daughter and gained a lot of new knowledge in the process.

Thanks for Reading!

What about you? Do you think you might benefit from your own unique PEACE WEEK? Do you have questions about how to start? I’d love to help. Or do you have other Conscious Parenting ideas that help bring you back into balance when you find yourself parenting unconsciously? If so, i’d love to hear them!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – August 2014

IMG_0661

If at first you don’t succeed.Try, try, try again. – Fredrick Maryat

August has not been my most Conscious Parenting month. At least it hasn’t ended very consciously. And for that reason, I’m starting a new PEACE WEEK, a self-designed, at-home, parenting retreat which helps me sit back and focus on my children and on how my moods, energy, words and behaviors affect them. My first PEACE WEEK was a great success, but it was a while ago, so I definitely need another parenting tune in. Stay Tuned for more PEACE WEEK posts this week.

However, before things started going downhill, I did remember to use some of my more helpful conscious parenting practices and they typically work when I’m conscious enough to use them. Here are a few, mostly for addressing frustration in younger children.

Do you need help or time?

When my four-year-old isn’t able to do something the first time she tries it, she immediately launches into an angry tirade about whatever the “bad” thing is not doing what she wants it to. Instead of launching into an over-her-head explaination about how things are neither good nor bad, or the concept of “operator error,” I try to remember to ask her, “Do you need help or time?” She usually answers, “TIME!” and will continue to struggle until she figures it out, but once in a while she will ask for help and I will step in. Asking that simple question allows me to keep from getting caught up in her frustration or rushing in to help. It also allows her to stop and think for a minute, which sometimes allows for a pause in the tirade, and gives her a feeling of control over the situation.

It seems like you are having a hard time right now, is there something I can do to hep?

This is one that I should be using more often, but haven’t put into use much yet. A lot of scenarios I envision using this in are tantrums in public, where I kneel down, look her in the eye and say the above quote. And in my dream scenario, she stops screaming, sniffs, gives me a big hug and says, “I love you, Mommy!” But up to this point, the actual scenarios play out more like you would imagine – a mother with a bag on one arm, a toddler in the other, hissing threats to a screaming child in the middle of a horrified crowd of onlookers. And so I refer to the initial quote in the post, “If at first you don’t succeed…”. 

Snuggle Tanks

There is a lot of talk in the world of relationship self-help of “love tanks” that affect our moods and our feelings towards our partners. In our family, we call it a “snuggle tank,” and (again, when I am conscious enough to remember…) We’ve talked about how we feel when our snuggle tank is full and when it is low or empty. One day we drew a picture, and hung it on the wall, listing all of the things that fill her tank (playing with friends, reading books, swimming, time with Mommy or Daddy, etc.) and all of the things that deplete it (being overtired, being scared, receiving unwanted attention, etc.). I try to catch her as soon as she starts to act off in some way and ask how her snuggle tank is doing. If I catch her in time and she’ll let me snuggle her for a bit, sometimes, it helps. It also helps to be proactive. Just being conscious of the things that fill and deplete her and making sure to try to avoid or limit the latter, can help avoid unnecessary stress or frustration (for both of us!).

Conscious Parenting Resources

This month, I’ve been listening to a few of interviews on the free Mastering Motherhood Summit for helping Mothers find balance in their lives. It isn’t specifically on Conscious Parenting, but is a free positive resource for parents, so I thought I would share.

I also recently read an inspiring post on Seven Ways to be a Healthy, Happy, Mindful Mama.

Thanks for Reading!

How about you? Have you found any inspiring Conscious Parenting resources or tools that work for your family? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Gratitude for a Safe Place to Call Home

IMG_0472

Having a place to go – is a home. Having someone to love – is a family. Having both – is a blessing. – Donna Hedges

Many nights before our recent move, I would wake up and find myself pausing in the quiet sanctity of our home to feel a rush of gratitude for its four walls, its sturdy roof, its cozy interior that kept my family safe each day. I didn’t always appreciate my home in the rush of the morning, or the craziness of the evenings and late afternoons. But in the early hours of the morning, when everyone else was sleeping, I often felt a sense of peace and comfort, knowing that at least for that moment, we were all together and safe. 

Recent news stories about families in a squatter’s community in Venezuela and families that just lost their homes in an apartment building in Gaza reminded me of those moments of quiet gratitude in the middle of the night and brought up thoughts of what it must be like for those families, or families all over the world, who do not have access to this most basic of needs, for safe housing. 

The place we now call home is much different than the one I stopped and thanked in those early morning hours. From a quiet suburb in Maryland, we now call a high-rise apartment building in a large city in South East Asia our home, and yet, while it isn’t as cozy as our previous one, I still want to remember to hold on to that sense of gratitude for our home, wherever we are, because of the safety it affords us.

It is easy to take our homes for granted when they become the background to our busy lives, but if we are among those with a safe place to call home, in times of stress or other strong emotions, it can help to bring to mind this most basic of gratitudes – that we have a home that keeps our family safe, warm (or cool) and dry – and then return to the situation at hand with a new perspective. At the very least, we have this.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Does stopping to feel gratitude for your home help to bring you a sense of peace? 

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook.”

Conscious Nutrition for Kids (and Adults)

???????????????????????????????

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”Ann Wigmore

We recently moved abroad*, and moving from a home we had lived in for three years, in a country we were both raised in, to a country we knew very little about, made our basic needs a more immediate priority. Instead of worrying about finding fun places to go for weekend outings and finding time to schedule dinner with friends, we were back down to worrying about our basic needs for nutrition and sustenance. While three of our family of four are more adventurous eaters, open to new things, my 23-month-old son, a picky eater at home, began to refuse anything I offered him, even things he previously ate at home. Desperate to find ways to keep him healthy and thriving in our new environment, I pulled out a few of my Healthy Momma tricks and to my great relief, they worked. Tweaking a few of my recipes from home to the ingredients we could find here (and a few we packed for the move), I have been able to keep my son’s nutrient intake high, while we work to find more local (and imported) food that he will eat happily on his own.

Here are three of my nutrition packed recipes if you are concerned about your little one’s eating habits.

Nutrition Packed “Pop-Pops”

My go-to staple for easy nutrition for kids is what my daughter long ago christened a “pop-pop,” which is basically a frozen smoothie. The recipe may change from week to week depending on what I have on hand, but the result is always the same – a sweet, healthy treat that my kids ask for on a daily basis. For the base, I typically combine yogurt (or Greek yogurt), Almond/Soy/Milk, orange juice and a banana. I then throw in whatever fresh or frozen fruit I have on hand – berries, peaches, pears, plums, pineapple, mango, melon, etc. Once that is all blended, I throw in some previously blanched and frozen kale (prepared this way, they’ll never even notice it in the final product!). Finally, I add chia seeds (for their high nutritional content) and a few scoops of green super food powder. I mix everything in a blender and then pour it into plastic popsicle molds. An hour later, I have children clamoring for my super healthy “dessert” and I couldn’t be happier.

Healthy Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are often another favorite of childhood and are another great place to “hide” lots of healthy ingredients (unfortunately this one isn’t gluten free – but it could probably be made with gluten free ingredients). I typically put honey (or you could use Stevia) into our pancakes, so they don’t need an additional sweet topping, but again, this recipe is open to interpretation and can be made, and enjoyed, in a variety of ways. The pancake base is typically the same – whole wheat flour, wheat germ, flax seed, hemp hearts, oats and almond/soy/milk. Then I add thinly sliced bananas, crushed walnuts and a few squirts (or teaspoons) of honey. It takes some experimentation with the ingredients to ensure a firm, well-cooked pancake, but my rule of thumb is typically 1/2 flour to 1/2 (all other ingredients – with the exception of the bananas and walnuts). Once everything mixed together, you can cook them like regular pancakes and either enjoy them hot, or freeze them to re-heat later for a quick, healthy breakfast or snack.

Versatile Vegetable Broth

We used to have a big back yard with a small corner set aside for a compost pile and a small garden plot to use it in. When we moved to a neighborhood with communal green space, we lost our compost avenue and I found myself feeling wasteful every time I peeled a carrot. One day I decided to start saving all of the peels, ends and other veggie parts that we didn’t eat and cooking them up in a big pot of broth. From there, the broth went into my ice cube trays (a cup of broth makes seven cubes) and then into freezer bags for easy use. Once I realized how easy it was to make vegetable broth, I started throwing “veggie cubes” into everything. When I cooked beans, lentils, rice, quinoa or anything else that required water, I would throw in a few for a little added nutrition. And of course, they are great for making soups that call for broth as well.

If you are interested in reading more, here is another post on “sneaky” ways to add nutrition to your family’s diet.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any healthy child-friendly recipes that are enjoyed in your family?

*I apologize for any confusion with recent posts. I am keeping a separate blog for family members about our life abroad and a few of those posts have been mistakenly posted here. Sorry for the confusion. I will be more conscious about where I publish my posts in the future!

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting – Preparing Children for the First Day of School

“There are only two lasting bequests we an hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings” – Hodding Carter.

As a mother of an intense, high-needs, sensory-sensitive preschooler (with transition issues), you would think that I would have prepared better for her transition into her second year of preschool this year, but one week into her school year and it is very obviously apparent that I did not. I knew enough to request to meet the teacher and tour the school ahead of time. I told her a few stories about a little girl with her name going to preschool in a new school for the first time. I bought her a new lunch box and packed it full of her favorite treats. But for my little one, this was not enough, probably, or maybe especially, because her new school is in a new country on the other side of the world from the one she knows….

So given our current reality, and this “back-to-school” time of year, I thought I’d explore back-to-school transitions from a Conscious Parenting point-of-view.

Consciously Prepare for the End of Summer and the Beginning of the School Year 

Traci of A Loving Way, talks about the importance of giving closure to the summer. Perhaps starting a ritual that celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of a new season. These could involve putting away summer things and bringing out fall toys and clothes, taking a nature walk and collecting items representing each season to put on a collage, or other rituals that have meaning for your family.

Validate Your Child’s Feelings

Rather than glossing over your child’s feelings with cheery banter about how much fun they will have at school, Traci talks about the importance of talking with your children about their feelings and validating their fears or concerns about starting, or going back to, school. With younger children, reading stories about the first day of school and talking about how they might feel may help. Sharing your own stories, or stories of family or friends, who were scared, can help children to normalize their feelings. For my daughter, hearing that her new teacher cried for the first week of school when she was little, made her feel better about her own tears.

Minimize Activities in the Beginning

On her blog, Traci cautions parents to take things slow at the beginning, to avoid overwhelming children with activities in addition to the transition to a long, work or play filled school day. Enrolling children in after school or weekend activities during the first week of school can fill up precious down time that their bodies need to adjust to the demands of their new school schedule.

Prepare as Much as Possible Ahead of Time

Sarah of Left Brain Buddha talks about the importance of preparing as much as you can the night or days before – lunches, snacks, backpacks, outfit, anything that can be done ahead of time. Having things prepared ahead of time helps to reduce the stress of running around in the mornings, and allows for more time connecting with, and reassuring, your little ones that getting ready for, and going to, school is just another fun thing they “get” to do every day. Routine charts with pictures cut from magazines or pictures of your child performing each activity can help some children develop more independence in the mornings getting ready for school.

Prepare Children Early for their Morning Routine

On a guest post on Intentional Conscious Parenting, Robert Nickell (aka Daddy Nickell) reinforces the importance of setting up a morning routine with your children and practicing it ahead of time, to help them be ready for their big first day. Turning morning school drills into a game can help you see where you might run into trouble and plan ways to address those areas ahead of time.

Familiarize Children with their School, Teacher and Classmates

Dr. Laura Markham of AHA Parenting suggests facilitate bonding with your child’s teacher, classmates and school environment before the first week of school. Most preschools have a day set aside before school starts to allow students to meet their teacher and classmates before the first day of school. Having some familiarity with their surroundings and classmates, can help children feel more comfortable when they begin school.

Start the Day off with Connection

Dr. Laura also gives some ideas of games to things to do and play to connect with your child in the mornings before they go off to school to leave them feeling loved and connected, such as an early morning snuggle as you wake them up or taking time to bond with them in the morning through play. Our morning routine has changed from my complicated yoga / morning intention routine, to a simple wake up routine where I greet and kiss each body part (“Good morning, Mr. Nose; Good Morning, Miss. Elbow”) that allows my daughter to wake up slowly and start the morning with happy giggles. Taking time to connect in the morning before school, can help ease their sense of lost connection when they say good-bye to you for the day.

Find a Way to Stay Connect During the Day

Dr. Laura also talks about the importance of giving your child a way to stay connected with you during the day, by providing them with a token, such as a picture or other meaningful object that they can keep in their pocket or bag. For some children, a tangible object can help them to feel less alone in those first weeks.

Reassure Your Child at Drop Off

Dr. Laura suggests creating a special good-bye routine to mark the transition to school in the morning. In our family, we use an idea from the Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, in which each person kisses the palm of the other’s hand as we’re saying good-bye, with the understanding that throughout the day, when we’re missing each other, all we have to do is put our hands to our face to “feel” their love through our “kissing hand.” Dr. Laura also suggests asking the teacher to give your child a special job to do first thing in the morning to give them something to distract them from what might otherwise be a long, tearful goodbye.

The Ultimate Goal

All of the above should, in theory, lead to a smoother, happier separation on weekday mornings. However, because separation from beloved parents can be hard for young children, especially those starting a new school or starting school for the first time, saying goodbye may still be difficult. It is in these moments, that the often heard advice of teachers all over the world, that of – “They will be fine in time” – may be the most useful for parents to remember. Words that, thankfully, rang true in our family this week.

This morning, when I had to leave my teary preschooler at school, I was flooded with doubt. “Is preschool really that important? What about home-schooling? Unschooling? Am I undoing all of my work to create a positive connection? Will she ever trust me again?” My mothering instincts urged me to scoop her up and run out of the building and never look back, but my less-sentimental, realist side reminded me that my active, curious, social daughter needs the stimulation and socialization that preschool provides just as much as I need time alone and time to spend with her younger brother during the day. With those competing thoughts, I asked a staff member to check on her before I left the building, only leaving when I knew she was happily involved with her class. 

This afternoon when I arrived at school to pick her up, I was greeted at the door by a beautiful, little smiling face, followed by her teacher who greeted me with those five magical words that melted my worries like the afternoon sun, “She had a great day!”

To all you conscious parents out there with little ones starting school soon, may you too be greeted in the afternoon by happy smiles and those five magical words, “S/he had a great day!”

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do any of you veteran parents have any conscious parenting tips for easing the back-to-school transition? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook.