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

Hopes & Dreams Revised: Learning to Feel

In graduate school, I observed highly skilled and passionate teachers and wondered how they worked their magic. Later, I’d see similar magic as a young teacher at the Harley School.  I soon learned part of the magic was Responsive Classroom. Being the Type A person I was (am?), I dug in to learn more.


Each year, I deliberately followed the Responsive Classroom’s outline for the first six weeks of school. It was clear the hopes and dreams part had a lasting impact. I saw kids from prekindergarten through middle school ponder what they wanted to do for the year – an enlightening and empowering process for them and for me.  It wasn’t always neat and easy, but with conversation and stories, we got into some deep thinking. Every kid I ever taught was able to articulate what they wanted to accomplish or feel during the year. 

I saved gems like this:

This process gave way to our class rules. Every time one of us slipped and forgot to “do the rules,” we had our class guidelines and shared hopes to buoy us.  It was a beautiful series of miracles in the classroom – not always perfect, but yet miraculous.  This included revisiting those hopes and dreams mid-year, partly to keep them fresh and honestly, in large part because we all know what a two-week winter break does to a classroom routine.  Continue reading “Hopes & Dreams Revised: Learning to Feel”

I Just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Holiday Picture Books

holidaybooks

Yesterday’s post “Savor the Rituals” has provoked a spontaneous and quick contest on Wonder of Children.

With over 100-holiday picture books in our home library, my whole family – okay, well, I’m the most eager –  looks forward to a few new holiday titles every year.  When I was in the classroom, I could see and share with children many of their favorite books.  And since I’m feeling both sentimental and curious… I wonder what your family’s current favorite holiday book might be?

 

Christmas Trinkles Book by Kay Thompson Hilary Knight ...

If you’re willing to share what your favorite holiday book is, I’m giving away a brand new holiday title.  With just a week until Christmas Eve, you’ve got to act fast!  The contest closes on Monday, December 22nd, giving the elves just enough time to get the book shipped out to the winner!

Here are three easy steps to entering the contest:

  1. Decide your favorite, favorite, favoritest holiday title.  That’s likely to be the hardest part!
  2. Post the title and/or a photo in the comments.
  3. Subscribe to the Newsletter – just look to the top right of the page.

Read and post FAST.   And after a weekend of celebrating and decorating and Christmas-ing,  don’t forget to check your email on Monday to see if you’ve won!

Happy reading….happy holidays!

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Lisa Dewey Wells

Savor the Rituals of the Season

We were a bit behind this year, but we did it. Eventually we made the annual trip to the bookstore to cull the selection of holiday children’s literature and to pick our new Christmas books.  Our family library for this micro-genre is in the triple digits.  We read favorites by the tree or at the kitchen table all month-long.  It’s one of those traditions that I hope we never outgrow.  I’ve also still got the fragile, red felt ornament that Mrs. Heinz made for me in Kindergarten, c. 1972, along with a box of ornaments that my mother and grandmother gave me every year until I was old enough to have my own tree.  My kids have their own boxes of ornaments they are given each year.  As we hang them, we retell the story behind each ornament. It often takes us a full week to decorate the tree in a format we call “grazing.” It’s leisurely, indulgent, and is part of the glue that holds us together.

December is the month for rituals and traditions. No matter what your holiday(s) or beliefs may be, if you have children, you have some traditions and rituals that you hone and perhaps hone as the years go by.  This memory making will stay with your child for years to come and not just at the holidays, and much of the memories your child will hold will be of the time spent with you.

Rituals and traditions serve to anchor us to our culture and family. They become familiar and welcomed, especially as our role expands or our memory and anticipation make those traditions richer.  As a teacher who has the privilege of watching children savor the traditions of our school (holiday performances, deliberate sharing of individual family traditions) and their own families, it’s still remarkable to me how much these traditions mean to children and how eloquently they can speak of what these mean to them.  Similarly, my own children are old enough now that they have nearly a decade of holiday memories – some of which they hold fast had firm to and others, which they scoff at in their adolescent way, but eventually then come back to participate.  Despite the heavy marketing of merchandise this time of year, what children speak most of is the time and activities they engage in with family and friends.

The rituals and traditions that mean the most to all children seem to emanate from being truly present, not the type and amount of presents. I hear children speak of time spent with parents and extended family, “artifacts” and objects, which symbol their beliefs and traditions and the memories associated with them.  For many children, this is a time to revisit favorite literature or movies, assist with decorating or baking, or to take a step forward to take on new responsibilities.  None of these are possible in isolation and are made truly memorable by the inherent companionship of family and friends.

So amidst the zillions of tasks and errands and responsibilities on your list this time of year, consider what traditions you share with your family. What rituals do you fully engage in to build those memories with and for your child?  Rededicate yourself to being fully present for those happening week or consider starting a new tradition or new begin a journal about what traditions your family shares at this special time of year.  If you take the time to honor it now and in the years to come,  you’ll surely help to build memories that anchor your child in the beliefs and priorities you seek to instill in them – and you’ll probably have a darn good time in the process!

Energize the Season

shadowplay

 

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

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Fondly,

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Lisa Dewey Wells