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

Messy and Creative Kids

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye and captured my heart.  Did you read Knead Slime? These Business Girls Can Fix You Up?

Note: If you should choose to make your own slime, be sure to research the risks of borax, a common ingredient. Consider one of the borax-free recipes instead, like this one that uses glue, laundry detergent, water and baking soda.

I love so many things about this article.  Any time a kid (girl, boy, a kid!) finds a project they can design, plan and execute, they are learning something.  They learn LOTS of things, They learn about learning and working and life in ways that will serve them well, even if their “work” appears to as play.  I know from experience that when such projects are messy, but heck, life is messy.  We had many events that started with separate paint cups and evolved into something like this:

Mess aside, projects like the ones described in the WSJ article reveal how kids intuitively tap into the design process, showing their ingenuity and curiosity.  Self-designed projects also help them develop skills, self-efficacy and neural networks in their rapidly changing brain.

First, they need to come up with an idea or a need.   If you’ve spent any time with tweens, you know fighting is NOT uncommon – whether it stems from nerves, attention, anxiety, boredom or habit. Humans, especially developing ones, are made to move. Fidgeting in school tends to come with consequences, so finding a “fix” is brilliant. Many can attend better with something to touch. Adults have been working on this for decades – everything from punishments and chemicals to alternative seating, coaxing and reinforcing positive attempts to control the fidgeting. Often kids have ideas worth testing and voila! They often work!  Recently, a college senior showed me her Fidget Cube, exclaiming in an energetic voice, “this THING IS GREAT!” There IS a market for learners for something to hold in their hands to soothe or stimulate.

Generic Ledeng Fidget Cube, various products available on Amazon

 

Second, these entrepreneurs need to design how their project/product will play out. As this article explains, there is research (apparently “slime” is a huge trend on social media, who knew? Teens, of course!).  There is testing the comps – factory bought versus homemade?  Which products work best? What can you dig up from your family’s bathroom to make it sparkle or smell? When can you get the job done?  Do your research, make your plans. Interpretation and Ideation are both key steps in design thinking.

From there, it’s testing and production.  Embedded in all of this are layers of executive functioning skills – initiating, organizing, mental flexibility (shifting from one thing to another – like from homework to slime prep to clean up), and self-monitoring (how am I doing? What can I do differently?).

Read this short overview of Executive Functioning here.

It’s essential that we give kids many, many opportunities to practice and hone these skills, a process which taps the parts of the brain that are constantly re-wiring and developing throughout the teen years and into their early 20s.  This experimentation and evolution are the meat of designing a project and where teens tend to dig into the “work” – taking things seriously, trying new skills and tasks and developing a sense of self-efficacy.These types of child-determined and child-executed projects allow kids to feel true investment and engagement in their important work.

Yes, this IS  WORK.

It’s like your boss throwing a problem at you, giving you the budget and space and telling you to get the job done, and then staying out of your way. Or at least checking in to listen, not problem-solve or micromanage. If you’re lucky, she might even reinforce what you’re doing well and notice your efforts!

It involves making a mess – literally or figuratively – as you dig into the trial-and-learn (not error) phase.  Ultimately, this concludes with skill growth and knowledge  and perhaps, even a workable, deliverable and profitable product. These projects reflect what is most salient and strong in teens.  As the folks at Responsive Classroom point out, “thriving thirteens” like be constructive activities, where they can be introspective.  They also:

want more freedom and will thrive with reasonably increased level of responsibility. Choices of tasks requiring new skills such as such as community service learning, student government, or tutoring younger children can meet with more success than having the only major school responsibility being to get their homework done.”

So here’s the girls and boys who go home after a full day of school and dive into a project that has meaning and relevance to them.  May they learn to do it well, grow in new ways and of course, clean up after themselves!

If you’re reading this and you’re not signed up to stay connected, I hope you do – just click here. Until next time, here’s to a messy and creative life!

Take care,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Busy? Or Productive and Full?

george

There’s a lot of talk these days about being busy.  There has been for months, so the fact that we are still talking about it means, we haven’t harnessed the beast called Busy.  I’ve come to dislike the term, this so-called  badge of honor.  But why be proud about scrambling around?

Confession:

I used to brag about being busy.  It felt like my obligation to be busy. It was a sign of accomplishment, pride, power over my crazy life. And there are certainly still times that my planner and calendar are filled, and many more times my mind and body are filled.

 

Then I read this from Alina Dizik in BBC.com

“We burn valuable time doing things that aren’t necessary or important because this busyness makes us feel productive,”

Yup, feeling productive feels good. Until I realize I am not doing much that is important or necessary. Ouch.

But there’s really no power in being busy. For me, there was also not a heck of a lot of joy, because the business of being busy wasn’t my choice.  But often, I look good being busy.

Why is it that  we in this country, especially women, feel the need to be busy?  Many women certainly have multiple layers of obligations (as do men).  We’re employees, friends, parents, humans. The juggle is not easy and it’s often not about balancing like the classic image of Lady Justice keeping things even. More often, it’s like keeping those (very full) plates teetering on top of those poles.

plates

For the past several weeks, I’ve had an unofficial experiment where I have decided NOT to use the word busy (unless it’s in reference to a phone call that doesn’t ring through).  While I have absolutely no data, I have noticed that if I don’t say “busy” I hear it less often from others.  This includes busy’s kissing cousins named “crazy,” “insane,” and “hectic,” as well as the second cousin recognized as the eye roll and palms raised.  Don’t’ put it out there and see what happens.

For the most part, our schedules are full. But when you put out there that you are “busy,” you’re likely to get that right back. Busy brings the connotation of full, but not to my liking – or full and I don’t want to be doing these things.  

I could easily describe myself as “busy,” too.  But I’m making a concerted effort to have a full calendar and full planner by making conscious choices about what I want and need to be doing.  I’m also not letting those endless little fires build momentum.

So I’ve changed my dialogue – when asked “how are you?”  Often, I simply say “well” and smile and ask, “how are things with you?” In return, I’ve heard lovely stories of kids and work and personal accomplishments from folks I chat with. I’ve also heard details of challenges in work or family life – but these anecdotes generally don’t include the word “busy.”

Oh, and that feels good. Like breathing space to listen to each other.

I can’t do this alone. I’m just not that smart, clever, nor disciplined.   I have tools.  More next time on those tools.

Until then, try not to be so busy.  Breathe, listen, enjoy.

 

Take care,

lisa

 

 

 

LWells