This summer has been longer than usual and we’ve been lucky enough to experience what’s called a ‘proper’ summer in the UK. We’ve had long periods of sunshine, which has meant we can play outdoors and take full advantage of the things we’ve got locally, making our days more memorable and enjoyable.
Unfortunately, you and I both know that everything goes to pot in the holidays; the healthy eating, the bedtime routine, the early morning wake-ups, the way our children play with technology and so much more, and rightly so, I say! The back-to-school and work routines can be hectic, so it’s nice during the holidays to let everything slide a little and allow everyone to relax and do more of what we all love; long lazy mornings, hanging out with people we love and creating memories.
However, with less than one week to go until term starts again, it’s time to raise our awareness to what we’ve got coming over the horizon and start preparing ourselves for the back-to-school routine. The approach I take is always a mindful one and it’s never a mad dash to buy uniforms and school shoes or to complete the outstanding tasks, it’s always paced and I’m very mindful to savour these last few days before the routine begins.
Here are 6 mindful ways to plan for the back to school routine:
- Raise awareness of thoughts
It’s this time of year when so many parents can feel completely overwhelmed at the very thought of getting back into a routine. Perhaps you’re feeling like this because it’s the first time your little one will be going to nursery or school. Your first encounter of nursery can be daunting for so many reasons, you may not feel ready to let them go or they may not be ready themselves. This will be the beginning of a new chapter for you both and new beginnings can be tough on both parties. Mindfulness encourages you to raise awareness of your thoughts, let go of what you can’t control and accept the current situation. This can be hard to do in practice but it truly works.As hard as it is, it’s an exciting time for you both, so I encourage you to raise your awareness to your thoughts and examine why you’re feeling like this. Whatever the reason, spend some time examining these thoughts, then when you’re ready, let them go, as these thoughts are not serving you well. Remember, you’re not the first to feel like this and you won’t be the last. Letting go of a little one can be so hard (I know this first hand) but they’re ready to make this first step and you’ll be by their side, holding their hand every step of the way.
For those with children going back to school you’ll have so much to consider. There are childcare arrangements to refresh and organise, school uniforms, school shoes and PE kits to buy for and organise, as well as after-school activities to arrange – the very thought of it could send you into a spin!
However, mindfulness encourages us to be aware of what’s going on with both our physical and mental health and tune into our thoughts, feeling, emotions and behaviours. So if you’re coping well and feeling OK then continue making your plans. But if you begin to feel overwhelmed, take five minutes, grab yourself a cuppa and relax for a moment, then go back to it. Taking three deep belly breaths can work wonders.
- Plan and pace yourself mindfully
As we’ve said, there’s lots to consider when going back to school (and work), so don’t think you’ve got to get everything planned at once. Take your time, don’t over commit yourself with work plans or after-school activities and make sure you still have some space in your week for you all to have the time to relax, re-energise and recharge. Once you’re back into the swing of work and school, it will be busy.I use our calendar and diary to plan childcare, work and after-school activities, and this will keep us all right for the coming term. That, and a fantastic childminder who keeps me right if I’ve forgotten anything!
- Make a ‘to-do’ list
This summer, we’ve really kicked back and just focused on having fun, enjoying our holiday and spending time doing what we each love most. This has left us feeling refreshed and recharged. We’ve all slept more than we usually do and we had lots of lie-in’s as the boys have stayed up late, and this has felt so good. This has been a conscious choice we’ve made and I’ve felt so grateful (one of the 7 mindfulness pillars) to have created some wonderful memories with the boys. However, now it’s back to reality. I knew I had lots to plan so I wrote myself a ‘to-do’ list which included everything I needed to get for the boys, myself and Richard. It even included things I wanted to prioritise; meal plans, weekly child care plans and after-school activities, I’ve always been a ‘to-do’ list kind of girl and it makes me feel so much more prepared and organised.This helps both my sub-conscious and conscious mind, as I’m not waking up in the middle of the night thinking of tasks and jobs I need to remember – it’s all there and I’m always referring to it and adding to it.
- Reflect and review your priorities
As we’ve had such a relaxed summer, I’ve got to be honest and say we haven’t focused on homework at all. I’m a firm believer that children should be children (especially during the holidays). School life is so busy for them that it’s nice for them too to have the opportunity to kick back and spend their summer days just playing and doing what they love most too.Mindfulness is about finding balance in your life – there is a time for work and play, and at times it can feel like a tug of war between ‘striving and non striving’ (one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness). But over the years, I’ve certainly got better with this and in order for you to keep both your physical and mental health levels at an optimum you need to find your balance with this.
In the week running up to us going back to school, I try to introduce a little school work into their daily life. We incorporate reading time, a review of spellings and encourage them to spend an hour a day on mathsletics (a maths software package that their school uses and they love it). This helps them get their brains into gear ready for school and it makes our jobs easier too as parents, as we’re not having to nag them.
- Set the tone
I’ve found it’s important to practice what I preach as a parent, and over the years, I’ve raised my awareness to this and how important it is. Since we’ve returned from holiday, we’ve been making conscious decisions about the food we eat at home, we’re aiming for our 5 a day, we’re encouraging the boys to drink plenty of water and we’re getting the rest we need to feel energised for the back to school routine.We’ve all tried to head to bed earlier, eat healthier and set the tone for the back to school routine. The first week back at school is so hard as the boys are more tired than usual, so the week before, we encourage the boys to go to bed earlier and we wake them earlier too, that way it’s not so much of a shock to the system. That said, they’ll still be tired after one week of school – they always are.
- Set new intentions for the coming month
This helps me to stay focused and on track with my goals for the coming month. I’ve always got a lot on in September; new courses, meditations to write and projects to plan for – that’s without the boys activities and school run etc. I always set new intentions for the coming month, which helps to reduce my stress levels and maintain balance in my life. After all, it can’t be all work and no play!
I hope this helps you to plan mindfully for the back to school routine.