Does it sometimes feel like everyone else knows the secrets of school success? Other people's children find learning to read easy. How come they get invited to parties? I think the teacher picks on my child. What am I meant to do at a parent-teacher-student conference thingy? What is a speech therapist and what does it mean if the teacher thinks my child needs one?
There are sooo many questions when your child starts school. What is important? What makes a difference to your child's school experience?
It is said that when we are older we don't remember much of what we learned at school, but we remember how we felt. We remember the feelings of humiliation of being chosen last for sport, pride at winning the timetable race, happiness at a party invitation, embarrassment when the teacher hit us on the hand with a ruler, anxiety about exams..
We remember the feelings of humiliation of being chosen last for sport, pride at winning the timetable race, happiness at a party invitation, embarrassment when the teacher hit us on the hand with a ruler, anxiety about exams.
Do you like school holidays? Can you take the time to reconnect these holidays?
Depending on your family they can be a blessing or a curse. A chance to slow down the weekly grind or routine, or a be source of stress as children out of their routine don't know what do with their unstructured time.
Whilst we work on creating a school success schedule, how much work do we put into making school holidays a success?
It is also common for issues such as too much screen time to arise; as well as pressures to organise and clean the house and catch up on everything you didn't get to during the term (I hope that's not just me!),
Just a quick hint - try for some out of the house time each day. Have a look at what your local council, youth group, State parks and libraries have on. You may be surprised at their breadth of activities - particularly for primary school aged children.
A quick walk in your nearest park, a trip on a bus or train somewhere, visiting friends or a picnic in the backyard.
Try and make the time to plant your feet on sand, grass or soil. Try and make time to reconnect with your children and your world.
Do you have time for self-care? This is something parents and other busy people can struggle with - for an example of one of my typical days see The reality of self-care and parenting.
STEP 1. Make a list of all the things you WANT to do for yourself. These are your desires for self-care. See if you have something from each of the below categories.
❤️PHYSICAL SELF CARE: Exercise/movement, Nutrition/diet, Sleep, regular medical check ups.
❤️PSYCHOLOGICAL SELF CARE: boundaries, healthy thinking, managing stress, challenging yourself, learning new things.
❤️EMOTIONAL SELF CARE: awareness and acceptance of emotions, resilience, finding joy, respecting and accepting self.
❤️CONNECTIONS: developing relationships with family, friends, others and community that minimise loneliness. Connecting with nature.
❤️MEANING: finding the meaning in your life.
STEP 2. Look at the list. If you did these things would it help you be more rested, calmer, fit, happier? If not, what else is needed. Add that to your list.
STEP 3. Sort the items in order of importance
Now it’s time for a reality check.
STEP 4. Have a look at your schedule. What have you allocated time for at the moment? Are any of these things on your list? For most people the answer is – not many.
Pedram Shojai OMD, echoes most of our knowledge around time management – if you don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen. If it is important, block it out on your calendar/diary.
STEP 5. Reshuffle your schedule for tomorrow so that you can fit at least one of your most important self-care things in. Then do this with every other day for the next week. (I wonder what you have dropped and what you have added in).
STEP 6. How can you honour these new commitments? Is the activity you want to schedule something you can do with a friend? Is it something you need to book? Pay for? When is the best time of the day for it? Think of what you can pair it with to help you remember to do it. Remind yourself of why this is important http://bit.ly/prioritisingselfcare.
STEP 7. Practice saying ‘No’ to things and other people’s requests that will mean you sacrifice your self-care.
This article is part of our 90 day challenge, which follows the ideas in The Art of Stopping Time. Depending on the day, these ideas will be portrayed quite closely, or very loosely. To follow this more closely join us at Positive Psychology for Life.
ps. One of the things self-help books are good at is giving you lots of information, a lot of general information that may or may not be right for you. That’s why we offer a couple of online course options which dive down deeper into helping you create a schedule that works for you, whilst giving you support about how to actually make these changes. See https://www.positiveyoungminds.com.au/groups-and-courses.html. Or you are welcome to make an appointment for one on one coaching.
In the Art of Stopping Time, Pedram Shojai OMD outlines 100 different practical mindlfulness activities; one for each of 100 days. I have chosen this book as a focus for the next few months and am diving in and vlogging on many of the various activities proposed.
When you are going through difficult times people often say 'just let me know if I can do anything to help’.
If you find yourself saying 'just let me know if I can do anything to help' to people I challenge you to stop and consider that often the person you are asking may not know what they need or not be in a position to articulate it. Even saying 'is there anything I can do?', is often met with 'nothing', 'I'll let you know' or 'thanks for asking'. Frequently this is a false connection. An attempt at a connection that goes nowhere.
So how do we move beyond this, into showing our kindness and creating connection?
If you know the person you are likely to have an innate sense of what they need. Look around - could they do with a meal, a coffee, someone to make their bed (I so appreciated a freshly made bed when I was struggling to cope with younger children - thank you parents, parent in law and sister in law).
What else helps?
What are the nine things to include in a school success schedule. And why does your child, especially if they are just starting school, need a schedule? They don't have any homework to do....
Following on from talking about uniforms and managing anxiety about starting school, this article looks at the importance of having a schedule.
Why create a School Success Schedule?
One main reason - predictability.
Going through this process helps everyone in the family, particularly your child, know what to expect. This predictability will help with easing the stress associated with starting a new School Year.
When your child starts school for the first time, (or even for the 10th time) there is a shift in routine. From holiday rhythm to school structure. This is a huge change and can be a source of stress for parents and children.
There are also a huge number of questions that need answers. Who is doing drop offs, pick ups? What time do we need to get up, go to bed? When do we prepare lunches? What activities are scheduled for after school? Is that too much, too little? Reading? Bath or shower in the morning or at night? How much time people have in the morning really varies. Does your child naturally wake early or late? Is there a commute to school? Do they have a bus to catch?
The aim is for your child to get to school on time and to get home from school, safely. How this happens is flexible.
There are no right or wrong answers to many of these questions. But like most things, open communication means people are less likely to argue based on assumptions or lack of information.
What do you put in a School Success Schedule?
If you want your child to thrive here are 9 things that may help.
Does your child have meltdowns over school uniforms? In my last blog I talked about some ways of helping reducing any anxiety your child may have about starting either school for the first time, or changing schools. Today is about the uniform.
This is often a contentious issue for children and adolescents I have seen over the years. Uniforms by virtue of their name are meant to be an equalising factor in the school equation (see what I did there.. a maths reference..). They are also an important part of the branding for many schools.
But as we know not all children fit the one size fits all uniform. There are many reasons for this - sensory sensitivities is a major factor. It includes things like - this tie is strangling me, my jumper/pants are itchy, and I hate the feel of school shoes.
These issues can result in arguments between parents and children and students and their teachers. However, just a few simple tips can help avoid some of the frustrations that often arise with uniforms.
1. If your child has sensory sensitivities, it is a great idea to have them get used to wearing their school uniform, including the shoes and hat. If doing this doesn't work, it's time to sit down and negotiate some modifications with the school.
2. Where ever possible see if you can source second hand uniforms - much better for your finances and the environment. And often these are good to help with sensory sensitivities because they are softer.
3. Check what is compulsory and what isn't. Does your child want/need a variation?
Are girls allowed to wear 'shorts'? This is a common one that pops up. If it's not on the list, but is something your child wants to do - this is one worth a call with the school and possibly worth taking a stand on.
If you have a good reasons for requiring a modification to uniform most schools will understand. This can help prevent daily arguments and frustrations.
Also, your child may want/need to wear shorts during winter instead of long pants. Speak with the school and ask for permission. They can then give your child a note which they can use if they are questioned by other teachers as to why they are out of uniform. .
They may want/need to wear a long sleep top under their dress. Once again speak with the school. If you have a good reasons for requiring a modification to uniform most schools will understand. This can help prevent daily arguments and frustrations.
So, open up the communication with your child's school and keep it open. Having their allowed modification on record is important. These tips will need to be reviewed when the uniform changes from Summer to Winter.
ps If you have a child in the early years of school - Prep to Grade 4, you may be interested in our new community created to support your child's (and yours!) school journey. It has been designed to help your child thrive.
Is your child anxious about starting school?
I remember when my eldest child started school. They were was so excited. I was anxious... Will they like it, what will their teacher be like, how can I help, do I stay in the classroom? The questions were endless. We had done some orientation but it was still a bit scarey. Together we negotiated the year. They had a wonderful teacher. She was strict, but clear, with us newbie parents and we felt a part of the class.
If you're feeling some of my first day at school nerves, have a think about your first day at a new job, or walking into a new group of people. What helps - some knowledge, preparation, confidence, a friendly smile - these will help your child too. Drop them off confidently with a big smile, your confidence will transfer to your child (then meet up with the other Prep parents to express your concerns and try and find answers to your questions).
Share with your child what you know about the school, their teacher, the classroom, go over the information you received at orientation.
Signs of excessive anxiety in your child
These may include them continually asking you the same questions; having nightmares; changes in their eating or sleeping habits or other behaviour; crying or becoming angry for no reason; regressing to previous developmental stages such as wetting the bed, sucking their thumbs; saying they don’t want to go to school; and/or showing no interest in going to school.
Nothing seems to help
If you find these strategies are not helping maybe your child is not ready for school. There is no evidence supporting that starting your child at school early is beneficial. In many cases giving them a bonus year at Kindergarten is the best decision. You may also find it helpful to get individually focused assistance for your child to learn anxiety management strategies.
If you would like to be part of the conversation about starting school, and then keeping on going with school for the next 13 years... you are welcome to come and join the Early Primary - Thriving in the Early Years group for parents. It's a long journey and it can help to have someone help you navigate the ups and downs.
Have you been trying to fit mindfulness into your life? Looking for an easy way to do it? What to know more about what mindfulness is - have a look here. For one practical way of introducing it in your life keep reading .....
Creating new habits can be really hard, particularly if you are trying to do it alone.
One way that helps is to link your new positive habit with something you already do. This means instead of creating a whole new life to fit a habit, you fit the habit into your existing life.
One example. Most mornings I go for a walk along the same path. I am incorporating mindfulness by paying attention each walk to something different, or looking at the same thing differently. The photos on this page were both taken on the same path, but largely on different days. This is my monthly challenge, and I am posting on Facebook and Instagram.
If you would like to join the challenge come and join us. Or let us know how you easily fit mindfulness into your day.
If you would like to have a go at making changes in your life by starting small and supported, have a look at our 7 Steps to Change challenge.
If you are interested in mindfulness have a look at these two posts which are a sample of my writings on mindfulness. MIndfulness and crocheting and Mindfulness and Driving.
Wishes aren't just for fairy tales.
How many times a day do you hear yourself saying, "I wish I didn't look at my phone so much", "I wish I was fitter", I wish I could get more sleep", "I wish my children would do as they were told", "I wish.....".
Unlike in fairy tales we don't have a fairy godmother to come along and grant our wishes with a swish of her wand.
But if that wish is important enough to you, you can work at making some of our wishes come true for yourself...
You can learn how to reduce your dependence on devices, you can get fitter, you can learn about sleep hygiene and improve your sleep patterns, and you can learn and implement different child behaviour strategies.
What can be difficult is knowing where to start.... And then having the support to keep going.
I know that working on my fitness is so much easier when I have a fitness buddy who can come to the gym, go for a walk with me.
Now I don't have a magic wand, but I do know the steps that can help you work on turning your wish into a reality.
Unlike in fairy tales we don't have a fairy godmother to come along and grant our wishes with a swish of her wand.
Now I don't know normally say things that sounds this outrageous. But there are sound reasons why? If you are interested in how - take a look at the video. Let us know what you think..
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.