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

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!

 

 

 

 

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

Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1

NOTE: As I was about to move my home office, I read a post by a friend who suggested those of us in a coaches group post pictures of our home office.  This was motivation to get crackin’ and make things look good. Or at least, better.  A day later, Jess Lahey and KJ Del Antonia were chatting on #AmWritingWithJessandKJ about their lack of workspace, reminding me how lucky I am to have a space and how needy that space was for some love.  So the move and requisite purge began with a little kick in the pants from these three friends.

 I. HAVE. BOOKS.

At last count, four bookcases in my office and one in the basement. Stacks around the house and stashed in tote bags and baskets. About a dozen bankers boxes with children’s books.  After our fire in 2005, one of the movers said, “Lady, are you a librarian or something?”  “Nope, I am the Trifecta. Teacher. Parent. Reader.”  He didn’t get it.

bookshelf

We replaced dozens of the books lost in the fire.  A decade later, I have SO many books – Kids’ books. Teacher books. Grown up books. Picture books. Well-read books. Unopened books. I am now trying to part with some of them, because… well, I really do not need all of them and they need more love and care than I can give.  It’s more emotional than looking at a scrapbook or photo album, perhaps because I never managed to keep either of those.  I AM really good at keeping books.   Continue reading “Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1”

Judy Judger, Parent

It’s been a while since I wrote. Maybe you missed me or maybe you didn’t notice.  I did write, but like most writers, only a small percentage of what I write ever shows up where others will read, and lately, most of my writing was crap.  Writing is one of those things I  file under my mom-judging practice.  I know…. there’s no point in that.  (My self-criticism was mitigated after listening to the inaugural episode of #AmWriting With Jess and KJ as  they celebrated procrastination and writing.). A story on the  Today Show this week reminded me how unproductive mom-judging is, no matter what the source, so it was time to stop judging and revise some writing.

writing

Most of us do  shame and judge ourselves at some point unless we work hard to combat the tiny heckler that rides on our shoulder.  When I’m aware enough to notice that heckler, I try to say hello and then I say goodbye.  Sort of like welcoming an unexpected guest to a cocktail party and quickly dispatching them on an unsuspecting guest who will engage in conversation with them when you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do it yourself.

 

I’m also aware of how often we  – parents, teachers, caregivers – all judge each other and ourselves. My curiosity was piqued by my friend Cynthia’s post,  Keeping Things Cool,  where she identifies the many flaws in Judy Judgers‘ visits and why we need to keep our own Judy under wraps, or at least far away from us at the internal cocktail party.  Judging others rarely serves us, right? If you really feel the need to speak your truth to friend or foe, then for goodness’ sake, take a deep breath and find a way to do this respectfully, maybe even in the future when you can respond rather than react. Nothing wrong with constructive criticism nor speaking the truth, but there is also no need to rush to judgment, inflict shame, or rip someone apart just for sport.

 

If you’re a parent, you know this happens, and not just with kids.  I’ve witnessed moms in coffee shops look  at strangers and wonder aloud how she got out of the house “like that.”  I’ve heard parents muse about how one could simply “not” get their kids into SAT tutoring as high school freshmen. I’ve heard men speak unkindly about the physical appearance of another guy’s wife. As a teacher, I’ve wondered what makes a parent send a first grader with a lunch that is 97% refined sugar.  And then there was a period when people wondered how I let my four-year-old son out of the house in a Disney Princess bikini (in retrospect, the bigger issue was why we even owned such a sequined-get-up).

 

I’ve also witnessed, and participated in, the self-shaming that comes when Judy Judger looks in the mirror.

  • “Ugh…should I  bring my kid his homework/lunch/cleats?”
  • “My daughter hates me because I took her phone away.”
  •  “I really need to make my kids a more healthy snack/dinner/breakfast.”
  • “My teen hates me… I can’t seem to say anything right.”
  • “I should really purchase clothes from this decade.”

These are real and they  could even be your thoughts.  Some of these are old-fashioned natural consequences – often hard for kids and parents to accept. Forgot the homework? The kid will learn new skills so she’s more likely to remember next time.  Take a phone away?  If it’s related to the misbehavior, he’ll learn actions have consequences.  Need more healthy meals – enlist the kids to help out since you’re definitely not the only one who eats.

 

The point is, we are all imperfect.  We mess up, we learn to fix things, we learn to move through the tough stuff. It’s easy for Judy Judger to show up  when we’re feeling stressed, vulnerable, and human. But that does not mean you need to engage in conversation with her.

judy

 

Parenting and family life is messy for everyone. It doesn’t need to be complicated by judgment.  We each have skills, strengths, and flaws.  Our kids, whether they are four or seventeen, need to see us as flawed humans who are doing our best and who are lucky enough to have the support of others.  They need to see us struggle, fail, and pick ourselves up.  They need to see us exercise the compassion to help others do the same.

 

Even though you feel like you have so much control and influence over your kids’ lives, the day will come (very) soon when you will not be able to shield them from struggles.  They will need the skills to navigate challenges on their own  and they will experience failure.   Our mission as parents is to raise them to fly solo – with us to observe, listen, and coach.

They can’t do this if they see witness us judging ourselves and others as if we expect perfection.

 

Let’s make room to allow ourselves and our kids do their best, live with natural consequences and learn from the process.  We’re all in this together – and we will be better – if we just sequester Judy Judger and instead, act with compassion, honesty, and integrity towards ourselves and others.

Take care,

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Lisa Dewey Wells