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.

Like what you’ve read? Please do me a favor….sign up to stay in touch (scroll on down to the bottom of the page). Share with friends who might also be interested, including on your social media. I so appreciate you helping me grow this tribe!

Take care,

 

 

 

cred: Brit Strackbein Photography

Hamilton in High School

My family is growing weary of hearing me quote Hamilton, but like yoga, I see the parallels throughout daily life.  Plus, I like the catchy show tunes and rap verses.

Recently, I found myself trying to talk less, smile more all in the spirit of truly listening to a distressed high school senior whom I will call Hamilton.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t know much about his story except that he is struggling to get by, has at least a few adults trying to put him in his place and, I believe, is smart, determined, competent and struggling to make his way in the world as he searches for how and where he can become a new man.

I am also trying to talk less in general as I hone my listening skills.  I’ve facilitated professional development with teachers around listening.  I’ve taught kids of all ages about listening, I’ve read about listening.  But like most people, I’m not innately a good listener. It takes effort and practice.  In my coach training, we’re focusing on reflective and empathetic listening.  One of the mantras is “listen twice as much as you speak.”   

In my role at a local high school, it is not uncommon for another faculty member to escort a student to my space to have them “sit a bit” or “just do some work.”  My comfortable and spacious place is intended for college and career exploration but de facto, it can be a holding place for kids when other adults aren’t sure where to put them.  I see this as an opportunity to connect with kids, to offer a safe, quiet place for a short time and ideally, to listen to what’s going on with them.  Sometimes, it’s a bit like the Island of Misfit Toys, but everyone needs to have a place to chill and fit in, and if I can be that island, I’m happy to do so.

A teacher who was monitoring a room known by an acronym I don’t even know the full definition of (it has something to do with discipline and detention and is about as barren and sterile as any institution) slid into my room and asked if Hamilton could come down for a bit.  He is, she surmised, “A bit worried about college and school.”

Well, alrighty. “…take up a collection and send him…

When she gave me his actual name, I told her we had worked together before.  He had been all over the place with where he might apply now that it was January of his senior year.  Shortly thereafter, Hamilton appeared before me, dragging his feet and examining the floor tiles.  I was determined to put my reflective listening in action so I could find out what was going on with this kid because his body language told me he was feeling like a beaten dog.

Best laid intentions, but this Hamilton was not conversant.

I tried many versions of “What’s going on?” “And tell me what brought you here?” and “So, waatz up?”  He didn’t lift his head and his arms went further into his sweatshirt pocket the more I inquired. Time to cut him some slack and offer words, much like one does with a preschooler who doesn’t yet have words.

Me: So, we chatted before when you came in to look at schools, right?

Hamilton: Yeah.

Me: And you were thinking about schools all over the country. It seemed like you were looking to get out of the area?

Hamilton: Yeah. I dunno…

Me: Ok, so now you need a game plan?

Hamilton: Head turns away.

Me: It’s not too late, but there is work you need to get on and I can help, I think.

Hamilton: Body hunches over the table.

I gently ask a few more questions, hunting for clues as to what he’s done about colleges.  Turns out other than taking the SATs he’s done diddly.  I ask if he is serious and wants my help, and he looks up at me and makes eye contact for the first time.  His ebony eyes are glistening, with tears precariously balancing on the lower edge of his eyes.  “Yes, ma’am.”

Inhale. Exhale.

 I see the hurt and shame here. Who knows what got him to the holding pen down the hall. 

Dreikur’s roots of misbehavior scroll through my brain:  Attention? No. Power? Maybe. Revenge? No. Helplessness? Definitely.  He wasn’t just acting out, he’s afraid and feels trapped.  “…helpless…

Then he went and did something that got him ushered out of class and here we sit. “…the world turned upside down…”

“I know this is hard and maybe overwhelming. But it’s not too late. We can find options, but you’re going to have to work,”  I assure him.  I tell him about an upcoming community college visit and the local Black College Expo that offers on the spot admissions.  He looks at me, nodding.  I tell him to come back in a bit and I will have some info for him to take home and read – and hopefully –  discuss with his adults.  Normally, I wouldn’t just dig up documents and hand them off, that’s on the kids.  But this kid seemed to feel like nobody is on his side. “… it must be nice. It must be nice to have Washington by your side…”

I get him back in the room and he is looking even more dejected. I summoned a cheerful but not too cheery tone of voice and smile a lot. I show him how the community college admissions process works and explain that if he came to work in this space, he could do it in no time, and I’d be there to help.  Plus, he’d have an admissions decision within a week.  Befuddled, he looked at me as I acknowledged, it might not be ideal, but it gives him an option.

Me:  Does any of this sound like a plan that gives you some choices?

Hamilton:  Nods and pulls the paperwork closer to point at the “apply here” link.  “…get the job done…”

Me: Think you can come in next week and we’ll do that?

Hamilton: Nods.

Me:   Let me hear it…

Hamilton: Yeah, yes, ma’am. I will come. Thanks… 

As he stands up, he towers over me and  I see his eyes are, again, wet.  I nodded my head and smiled. “…there are moments where the words don’t reach…”

This kid wasn’t misbehaving in class just to piss people off. Like so many high schoolers, he is worried about the uncharted path ahead. Perhaps he is realizing he should have done things differently, made different choices. He was feeling stuck, trapped, without choices and maybe without support.  We’ve all been there and it’s crappy.

I tried listening, even when he was barely able to speak. Empathy and reassurance it had to be, talking less, smiling more.

Like what you’ve read? Sign up to stay connected. Right up there at the top right.

Here’s to talking less, smiling more!

What Makes You Feel Gratitude? (Happy Birthday to Me!)

While it’s been a week of high emotion for many of us on the national front, I’ve had several opportunities to celebrate over the past week.  Another trip around the sun means gratitude for me. I wrote about that last week in Gratitude.

But I’ve got one more way to celebrate, with a little help from you.  Read on about doing good for others.

There are many organizations that ask for our resources – we’ve all got a list that we believe in and help to the extent we are possible. I’ve got one I’m going to make a donation to in one reader’s name is one more way to celebrate my birthday!

I thought long and hard about which nonprofit I’d share this love.  I found that, just as with other things in my life, by paying attention and setting an intention, I can better ensure I’m acting in ways that make me feel good about doing good.  It’s not always easy, but thinking about what’s really important and how I want to feel makes decision-making easier. (Want more on this – try Hilaria Baldwin’s book The Living Clearly Method where she shares her five principles for taking care of body and mind. Spoiler alert: she talks about attention and intention!)

In the past year, I’ve become a consultant with Beautycounter, whose mission is to get safer products in the hands of everyone.  We do this by advocating for safer skin care, safer cosmetics through educating consumers and lobbying to help make sure we know what goes into the products we use every day.  One of the things I admire most about Beautycounter is that it’s a Certified B Corp – meaning they have verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.  They are a company using people and business as a force for good.  As part of that, Beautycounter has three trusted partnerships with non-profits who share this vision, on of which also looks out for the interests of children.  With attention and intention, it became crystal clear that’s where my gift is going!

Healthy Child Healthy World is an organization that empowers parents and caregivers to protect children from harmful chemicals.  Why is this important to me?  The first decade or so my teaching, kids were rarely sick but what I came to notice in the second decade and beyond, is that more and more kids are now diagnosed with allergies, cancer, autoimmune and neurological issues.  Sure, medical advances may play a part in this, but it runs much deeper.  As caretakers, we need to know what’s in the products we surround ourselves with so that we are empowered to make choices that impact our health and our children’s health and well-being. We need to put our attention on our children’s health and act with intention.
Want to help me on being a force for good as part of my 50th birthday celebration?  It’s just 3 steps:

  1. Sign up to stay in touch with Wonder of Children. Just gaze up to the right and find where it says “Subscribe to our Newsletter.”
  2. Leave a comment about something or someone who allows you to feel gratitude.
  3. Share this post on your social media networks.

That’s it.  Come February 1st, I’ll let you know in whose name I make the donation in honor of… and then  I think that’s the end of the celebrating, at least until next year!

 

 

 

 

Gratitude.

Much has been written and said about gratitude, especially as we move into a new year. Most of us would not outward admit to any downsides to this practice and some of us stumble when it comes to making time to consider what and whom we are grateful for in our lives. Or we might find articulating that gratitude challenging. Or perhaps we are so in the muck of life, that it is actually a challenge to see what we might have to feel gratitude towards.

I’ve been there. Often.  Work, health, parenting – it all gets heavy and busy. So busy that any sense of gratitude gets weighted down, if not suffocated.

 I am decidedly not there right now.

I’ve also noticed that milestone birthdays are often greeted with disdain, regret or even shame.  “Feeling old” becomes the expectation even simply said in jest. I’m celebrating one of those milestones this week and honestly, I have not one bit of regret or shame about a birthday which happens to a multiple of ten.

In fact, I’m pretty darn psyched.  I’m lucky to be here, decades after my Birth Day.  The alternative is far less rosy.

Last spring, I made a list of “50 x 50” – a list of what I wanted to do/see/feel before hitting 50.  I quickly realized that there were not enough resources to make that happen by January. So now it’s a “50 x 60” list, which I am far more determination to make these things happen because I am full of gratitude. Continue reading “Gratitude.”

They Are Watching Us (spoiler: They are Learning from our Behavior!)

cares

Did you see or hear the news last tonight? It seems a lot of us are on edge. Even for those of us who are doing our best to make sure this is a “regular Tuesday” and a “regular week,” neither are regular.  This is a week that will make history. Today is a day that (hopefully) will bring some closure to weeks of name calling, poor behavior, degrading others, and generally showing the worst of humanity. A high schooler told me yesterday  she worries “tomorrow will be the worst,” as in the worst day for our country and “the worst election ever.”  She’s not even voting. But she’s watching others.

It’s time to move on to civility, decency, empathy, and proactive behavior on social, political, economic and world issues. Let’s not let what may or may not be the “worst” campaign season and election become the “worst” time in our history.

It’s time to  move ahead for ourselves,  and so our spectators to see us be and do better. Cooperatively. Peacefully.

voteNo matter what your political beliefs are, people are watching and judging each other. It’s  the kind of judging that doesn’t  engender itself to kindness and compassion, let alone productivity, cooperation, and efficiency.  I can’t think of one adult that has not been distracted or disgusted by politics. Even friends living abroad and those of us in-country have lost time from our work, family and priorities to take part in this divisive campaign.  Admittedly, many are working proactively to get folks out to vote (BE. SURE. YOU. VOTE.) or lobbying for their cause.  But there have been distractions and diversions and – my issue d’jour –  what we model for our children. They are watching. And wondering. And learning. And puzzling why some adults are doing precisely what the tell children NOT to do.

Yes, they are all watching us and taking this all in. By “all,” I mean:

  • Yell
  • Call each other names
  • Misrepresent facts
  • Go on defense 
  • Lie
  • Blame
  • Accuse
  • Deflect the issue

The  list of undesirable behaviors could go on…
They are watching acquaintances and family members and people they know only in images  behave like this. They are seeing people they look up to behave like this and often, disagree with others they  love, behaving in unsavory, undesirable ways.  Often this adult behavior is precisely the same ways we tell our children they are not to behave.  “Don’t lie to me! ”  “Stop yelling and use your words!”

In a world where many of us are dedicating our life’s work to teaching kids prosocial skills – like cooperation, assertiveness, respect, empathy  and self-control – there are so many adults who are not demonstrating these basic human skills.  While they are “basic,” they are also in high demand but often not taught nor utilized.

It’s fine – and necessary in a democracy – to have different opinions. Sharing these diverse views requires one to listen to the other side and to make an argument respectfully with facts, with a sense of cooperation to solve a greater issue, and often with empathy so that the problem can be resolved. The interwebs are fantastic.  However, just because it is on-line, that doesn’t make it true, necessary, or desirable. Our kids are hearing and seeing images of poor behavior and ideas that morph from beliefs to thoughts to words and action. As Gandhi said:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

These aggressive, antisocial words, actions, and habits cannot become the values and destiny of a generation. It’s no way for any of us to live.

We need to take a huge, collective breath as the numbers come in.  We need to recommit ourselves to treating each other with care and respect, to discussing issues from a place of cooperation and integrity, and to developing solutions with civility, empathy and advocacy.  It’s time to  get on with the work and joy in our life, rather than being distracted by an election squabbles. This election is  immensely important, but it seems to be keeping us, individually and collectively, from being our best.   We need to up the game, if nothing else, because our kids are watching and learning from us.

Go vote. Go be kind. Go do good. Show those who are watching you how you want the world to be.

Take care,

lisa

 

 

 

LWells