Sticky Transitions: 6 Tips for Managing the School-to-Summer Transition

Overheard in the grocery store:

“As much as I am so sick of homework battles and driving around town, I am NOT looking forward to having them all around ALL DAY…”

I don’t know this Mama, but I am pretty sure she didn’t truly mean this. Maybe just the homework battles or driving part.  Or maybe she really did mean the whole messy transition and subsequent two months of summer.

Remember how exciting the end of school and start of summer was when you were in school?  Most kids are thrilled, even those who love school. Teachers LOVE the anticipation and slower pace. It’s often a life- and career-saver! Parents often cringe at this change.

Why? People tend not to like change.  Change means we need to switch gears, adapt to a new routine (which may take a good chunk of summer to even find),  and find a new equilibrium or something close to an equilibrium.  That may mean more kids under our roofs and at our feet, the juggle of working from home or office, getting kids where they need to be, financing summer activities, facilitating and tolerating the boredom they wrestle with, learning to let go a little as they try new things and test new limits.

It’s not actually the “change” to summer that makes us stressed but the transition that is icky. Transitions are sticky for all of us – whether it is the schedule, relationships, yoga poses or our diet/health routines.  Transitions are where we falter, fight and usually, grow.   It takes time, patience and perseverance to hobble through the transition and make it to the other side. It’s ridiculously easy to give up when you’re wrestling with change.

I’m tempted throw in the transition towel on a regular basis.  Recently, we rescued a sweet,  very anxious, puppy.  We kept to all the training guidelines to ease Toby in the first few days:  a regular schedule, a few safe places to rest and run, a comfortable distance from the three cats.  By taking this transition carefully, he began to warm up and settle in.  By day five, I had let him off the leash inside and he jumped on our bed. I was cool with that, but we had agreed, he wouldn’t sleep there. The evening of day six, Toby was resting on the bed after a vigorous game of fetch as I read in bed. I dozed off, as did he. I awoke later and was plenty comfortable, so I left him.  I wasn’t willing to transition myself out of my cocoon, nor could I summon the energy to maintain to the shelter-to-home transition we had worked so hard to establish. Fortunately, my husband has much greater resolve in this area and by day seven, we were back on our nighttime routine.

 

And then there’s yoga.  When I practice yoga, I find myself fighting transitions ALL THE TIME.  Poses are hard, they are uncomfortable. My aging body hurts or those squirrels in my head are dashing in circles. Honestly, I don’t always want to be practicing, but I know it’s good for me (and those around me).  And that little heckler on my shoulder makes it much more challenging to stick with the tricky transitions than my body does.  She’s told me for years shoulder stand is just not possible because twenty years ago, those chunky toddlers caused some tendonitis in my shoulder. Or that I don’t have core strength. Or the studio is too hot. Or whatever the complaint du jour might be. But one day, I wiggle and wobble and falter before nailing it for five long seconds. Getting there was ugly, but being there was not so bad.  As the neutral observer when  I teach,  I get to learn so much about what humans struggle with when things are changing. Mountain pose is fairly doable for most. Lifting one knee so it’s parallel to the floor, not always, and the wobble begins. The mind-chatter amasses reasons why and continues into reasons why tree or warrior three will DEFINITELY not be happening. Keeping a focus, breathing, showing self-compassion balanced with discipline, helps. Then softening somewhere, accepting the wobble, allows most yogis to get into some version of the pose. Leaning into the wobble and ick often makes the transition palatable, if not doable.  A smile helps, too.

 

Same with the school to summer transitions. Here are six tips for leaning in and softening into the challenge, while keeping a focused determination to make the most of this transition and the coming weeks.

  1. Allow for downtime:  Who’s NOT tired at the end of the year? Sleep late. Eat breakfast for dinner or eat sandwiches in the yard while watching for fireflies.
  2. Talk together about the schedule:  Map big dates, weekly and daily targets (I call these rocks and blocks – more soon on this!). Make it manageable and flexible.
  3. Decide and assign on chores:   Most classrooms have these and kids of all ages are capable of helping out. If you have high expectations for household tidiness, consider being flexible here if your kids are now doing their own laundry, accept that you will find some unfolded or left in the dryer after it buzzes. but they are owning this work and it is getting done
  4. Set small and attainable goals: This means for yourself and the fam.   If summer reading tends to be a bit of a plague, rather than saying “read 12 books this summer,” how about “we’ll go to the library this week” or “this week we’ll set up a cozy spot to read in the house.” These foundational steps get the ball rolling and off to a positive start!
  5. Let go of the negativity bias:  Humans tend fo focus on what does awry. Each day, notice what is going well. Maybe the first week, people are sleeping in a bit and resting more. Yay! Pay attention to what is working and acknowledge that. Heck, CELEBRATE it!
  6. Have compassion: Summer, like all transitions and changes, won’t last.  Change is hard and manifests in many ways – off-kilter behavior, frustration, tears, tension, sleep.  Whatever it is, let it just unfold for a bit, acknowledge it and then set a plan so a new routine can unfold. Summers that your kids are home won’t last either. There will be camps, jobs, college, and adulthood. Make the most of the summer days, starting today.

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Take care,

 

 

 

cred: Brit Strackbein Photography

8 Traits

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The past few posts have focused on defining family but in a broader sense, this blog is about what we model and instill with the children in our lives and the lessons we learn from each other. A huge part of raising and working with kids is keeping in mind the end game.  That doesn’t mean being wedded to a certain outcome (soccer star, valedictorian, Ivy-League college) but more a general sense of the values you want to instill and the kind of person you hope this little person is and becomes.  While much of development is dependent on temperament, health, experiences outside the home, parents and caregivers are the first teachers and often, the most significant role models.  

 

It’s important to spend time thinking about what you want to model and instill, and to know that this may change over time.Each family will grow to have it’s own unique blend of values and priorities. This may include a range of other big and small ideas, such as:

Joy

Compassion

Accountability

Courage

Faith

The foundation for building a connected family and children who learn to navigate their world with confidence, empathy and a willingness to accept challenges are based on eight traits explored on the blog.  They are:

Creativity

Empathy

Listening

Love of literature/communication

Perseverance

Play

Problem solving

Resilience & resourcefulness

 

These are eight traits, among many, that are the foundation upon which strong families are based.  It also shares stories of a wide range of children in the classroom where these traits are nurtured and contribute to both the child’s development and the school community.  Each of these traits helps give rise to confident, caring and engaged children who learn to advocate for themselves and people and issues important to them, as they learn to be self-reliant and motivated thinkers and do-ers in an increasingly complex world.

With two emerging adults – kids that are late teens and early twenties but not yet fully adults – it’s easier now to look back on how we raised them.  There were definitely periods we were far too bleary-eyed or stressed to consider the big picture! Over the past twenty years, our ideals and values have shifted as circumstances and needs changed.  We faced challenges and many joys, but throughout these halos and hiccups, there are many values and traits that we clung to and strived to model and instill.

 

Over these same years, as I worked with children from ages three through thirteen, I was fortunate enough to work alongside dedicated colleagues who shared similar values and commitment to what we modeled and expected from our students. Beyond my own two offspring, I saw hundreds of kids from various backgrounds learn to navigate school and life with courage and integrity, learning from their mistakes and growing.  What’s most important to me as a person and my family can be summarized:

 

  • We must have the courage to be both creative and empathetic in our lives. We must listen to our hearts and the people around us. Everyone and every situation have something to teach us when we listen.  
  • Communicating with others orally, in writing, in our body language and our actions are essential in this world.
  • Literature has much to teach us, as well as an ability to help us escape from the world, explore new ideas, and connect with others.  
  • Life isn’t just about work; it’s about play and joy, too. Play is essential for big people, little people and all people, so we need time for authentic play that allows us to do something we love with no  purpose.  
  • Whether in play or work, we will need to problem solve, often. This requires looking carefully at the situation and trying new things. We will fail, and we will succeed, and we will learn.
  • To navigate our relationship and our world, we will be called upon, again to be brave, as we develop resilience and resourcefulness. Life will be complicated and messy and rewarding. We have to jump in the game and give it our all.  
  • As a family, we need to support each other as we take this journey, honoring each other, being open to the possibilities, holding each other accountable as we celebrate the failures and successes of our individual and collective growth and contributions to the world.

Our most important job as parents and caregivers is to raise children who learn to be self-sufficient, competent, caring and willing to contribute to the world – a world we cannot know right now, but can only give our very best effort to raising good kids who will go out and do good in their own ways.

What’s most important to your family or for you to model and instill in the children you work with?

Energize the Season

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The countdown is on until the holiday break in schools across the country.  Teachers are trying to forge ahead, focused on academics and school community and kids are, well… excited. It’s hard to stay focused while still recognizing the joy and excitement of the season.

The countdown is on until the holiday break in schools across the country.  Teachers are trying to forge ahead, focused on academics and school community and kids are, well… excited. It’s hard to stay focused while still recognizing the joy and excitement of the season.

One December, we were greeted with stormy winds and rain, and throwing a wrench into our third- grade field trip plans. Teachers and administrators to make last a minute decision on whether or not to transport children 30 miles away into a storm, but my brain was also processing how this unexpected glitch would further interfere with the difficulties we were having with transitions and remembering to “do the rules.”  It clearly wasn’t going to help – or would it?  I had been noticing and journaling the deviations, searching for patterns or triggers. Not surprisingly, transitions were our downfall. When a class has trouble making a transition, there’s a domino effect. Signals are unheeded. Reminders ignored. We’re  late. Or unprepared (physically and mentally). Conflicts arise. Stress increases. The rules seem to erode.

One December, we were greeted with stormy winds and rain, and throwing a wrench into our third-grade field trip plans. Teachers and administrators to make last a minute decision on whether or not to transport children 30 miles away into a storm, but my brain was also processing how this unexpected glitch would further interfere with the difficulties we were having with transitions and remembering to “do the rules.”  It clearly wasn’t going to help, or would it?  I had been noticing and journaling the deviations, searching for patterns or triggers. Not surprisingly, transitions were our downfall. When a class has trouble making a transition, there’s a domino effect. Signals are unheeded. Reminders ignored. We’re  late. Or unprepared (physically and mentally). Conflicts arise. Stress increases. The rules seem to erode.

As I noticed these changes, I began to comment more on what I noticed, careful to articulate precisely what I saw them remembering to do well, but not offering hollow praise (“Good job!“).  When children hear you noticing (“I see that you remembered to put all of  your writing materials away. Now you are ready to wash up for lunch.“), that also has a domino effect.  When it was hard (or impossible) to see what was working well, I reminded individuals that I had faith in their abilities and knew they could do better. I asked what they thought was interfering with the normal tenor or quality of work and play.  Not surprisingly, they often knew and were then empowered to make the changes themselves.

So on the morning we had to re-group and re-plan the day, I rifled through Susan Lattanzi Roser’s book Energizers! 88 Quick movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus.  Earlier in the week, I had read about her game “The Laughing Handkerchief.” That was going to be our saving grace on this wet, wet morning.  (For other energizers, check out Roser’s video’s on her Lion Heart Consulting page.

We learned and practiced this  game at our Morning Meeting,  They giggled, and cackled and roared and howled, and accepted that the much-anticipated field trip would happen in the new year.  I asked if they could guess why I picked that particular  new game.  The usual answers came up – “It’s fun!” “It’s new!”   But one deep-thinking almost-nine-year-old said, “well, in the game you have to know when to stop and do something else like the transitions we were practicing.”  He really was not a plant!  He defined simply but clearly.  Laughing like a clown (or Santa or mice or whatever) while the scarf floats but watching carefully so you know to stop once it hits the floor, is a lot like making transitions happen smoothly.  Another child pointed out it’s “like changing your energy from high energy stuff to quiet energy.  Like (deep)  breathing (exercises) and yoga stuff we do.” Nailed it.

The connection between observing what’s slipping, practicing rules and routines and then engaging children so that they want to do their best was nestled in the “Laughing Scarf.”  We practiced the game for a few more days and  pulled it out intermittently in the weeks that followed.

The next few weeks will surely bring an increase in excitement and energy as the holidays and vacation approach. Similarly, the transition in January is likely to resemble a mini version of the first six weeks of school. Reminding our students –  and practicing the routines and expectations we’ve established – are two tools to re-grip and move forward productively and with joy.

Besides being a good lesson in changing energy, voice volume, and tasks, the Laughing Handkerchief  is hilarious opportunity to just let a solid belly laugh rip. And often, laughter is the best medicine.

For other ideas and energizers, check out these resources and ideas:

Energizers! 88 Quick Movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus

Handling the Holidays (Part 1)

Seeing It All Come Together

Keeping Routines Crisp

Want to stay in touch for great parenting and teaching resources?  Be sure to Like Wonder of Children, Follow me @lisadeweywells on Twitter and sign up to get updates delivered right to your inbox, by signing up at the top right corner here.

 

Fondly,

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Lisa Dewey Wells

 

 

 

 

9 Reasons Yoga is For Kids

photo courtesy of St. Anne's School of Annapolis
photo courtesy of St. Anne’s School of Annapolis
This week students from preschool through eighth grade at St. Anne’s School of Annapolis are celebrating “Mind Body Spirit Week” with five days of events and learning about the essential connections between what we do with our bodies, how we interact with ourselves and the world and how we take care of ourselves and others.  I was lucky enough to be asked back to teach a few yoga classes with some of their young friends and then later for teachers.
Like classroom teaching, practicing yoga with children is a curious mix of joy, laughter and the unexpected.  It always makes me a better person and teacher. I  came armed with some lessons plans, but those were promptly pushed aside as we just responded to the energy and interests that arrived.  We explored of our physical bodies on the mat  and some frank discussion on mind-wandering and what it feels like to have all those big and little thoughts in our head. Oh, yes…and they eagerly shared the  things that make them feel stressed (you’d be surprised!).  Our brief chats concluded with some breath awareness and the immediate feedback that breathing deeply is, in their words:
  • calming
  • peaceful
  • feels like you’re floating
  • make me more me
From teetering tree pose to fierce planks, their asanas revealed determination, a true sense of play, friendship, and a willingness to take risks. I’m quite certain these traits carry over into other aspects of their lives. After spending several hours with these little yogis, here are 9 reasons yoga is for kids, too.
1. Yoga is for everybody because everybody has a body and everybody can breathe.
2. Yoga is about self-care.  It’s incredibly useful to learn how to care for yourself. Knowing your body and what you can do with it, along with when  you can challenge yourself, is a life lesson.
3. Yoga helps you recharge and become clear-minded.  Kids, like adults, report they feel better after doing yoga and that they are then,“very calm.” The experience of relaxation that comes with a good physical yoga practice can be very profound.
4. Yoga helps you cope with things like anxiety, depression, ADHD, anger, jealousy.  I always feel grateful after I practice yoga. It’s also the perfect time to smile and have fun!
5. Yoga is a workout, too!  It really is.  It helps regulate metabolism and increase self-awareness.  You’re also likely to feel better about yourself. 
6.  You can get better at the poses just like you can get better at a sport, As long as you are operating from a place of knowledge and respect for how your body works, expect improvement for yourself as you get stronger, your coordination improves, and your muscles lengthen.
7. You’re so lucky to be doing yoga now.  So many people say they wish they had known about yoga earlier in life.  It’s really a gift to have the time and place to practice yoga.  It’s a sacred time to acknowledge the blessings of our life, including our body and breath.
8. The point of yoga is to remain curious about what you can do.  Yoga helps you improve your mental outlook so if you’re feeling jealous, self-defeated, or envious, yoga gives you the chance to forget those methods of thinking and instead to observe and engage in your own experience.
9. Seek things to do that will empower your strength of mind, body and character like yoga and not things that will disempower you (unkind friends, things that might harm you).
Take care,
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Lisa Dewey Wells

Polar Vortex + Detour = Good Stuff

After the long holiday break, we all settled back into our school routine during the first week in January.  My middle schoolers did remarkable well picking up with our grammar, spelling and reading routines. We reflected on our hopes from the start of school and outlined our hopes for non-school goals.  Academic hopes, forthcoming.

We dove into a new genre of writing (memoir) which they eagerly attacked with the passion that ten- and eleven-year olds adeptly apply to dramatizing their endeavors. We began wrapping up our research on the Vikings and started working on  oral story-telling of Viking Sagas. We also began the arduous process of writing an essay on what we learned and documented in our primary- and secondary-source research. Things were humming along. Even-steven. Phew!

Along comes a three-day weekend, capped off by snow and cold. You know what I mean, because most of us were impacted by the Polar Vortex or at least heard about it on every news and social media outlet. As my friends in the northeast like to chuckle about, the mere prediction of a couple inches of snow shuts this part of the world down.  By Tuesday morning, 300 schools in metro-Washington were closed for the day.  Ditto for Wednesday, followed by two-hour delays the rest of the week.

So much for having our bearings this January. Continue reading “Polar Vortex + Detour = Good Stuff”