Back To School Transition Tips
Last weekend I did a 60 minute Live session in our Facebook Community on some Back To School Tips. Since the replay quality was horrible I’ve decided to recap the top tips here.
Hopefully this will help you smooth out the transition between summer and school so you can feel more confident about setting your child up for success this year.
To really understand these top tips (they’re listed at the end), you need the context I took about 30 minutes to explain in the Live session.
The context is what will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by your kids so you can start to feel more confident and strategic.
What I teach, and what I find helpful as a mother, is to understand our kids through the lens of resilience.
What does that mean? It means looking at their health and behaviour in the context of stress.
See, a symptom reveals itself when the stress burden on the body outweighs that body’s ability to cope with the stress load.
The example I used last weekend was the common cold; when the strength of a virus (the stressor) outweighs our immune system’s ability to kill it (the coping mechanism), we experience symptoms until the tide can be turned.
A very resilient body will cope with that virus more swiftly and efficiently, and will feel fewer symptoms for less time.
Now, behaviour and mood can be seen through the same lens. Stress outweighs the ability to handle that stress, so the body reacts. Symptoms show up as anxiety, outbursts, impulsivity, aggression, symptoms of autism and ADHD and so on.
When we understand behaviour this way, the impact of food becomes apparent (I’ll get that in a minute).
But what if there’s a diagnosis? What if there's ODD or ASD or ADHD, or SPD… something of the sort? Do we approach things differently in that case?
Well, no, not really in terms of what we (parents) can do to help.
What the diagnosis might guide you towards is a better understanding of the physiological reasons that explain why stress load is unusually high or their ability to cope is so low.
ADHD can be connected to a reduced ability to use dopamine, for example.
ASD symptoms can reflect a reduced ability to detoxify or digest (or a number of other things - read more about that here).
But as a parent, you can take the same basic approach to help - reduce their stressors and improve their body’s ability to cope with stress. That’s what the process of Raising Resilience is all about, and that’s what the parents in my group coaching program are doing right now.
So, let’s talk about some ways to raise resilience in the context of the back to school transition.
This season amounts to what I call “A Stress Storm” - a time of unusually high stress during which, if resilience is low, we can expect some symptoms to flair as the body struggles to cope.
Now, of course we can’t control all of the factors stressing our kids out, but when our kids are in a stress storm like this, it’s a really good time to throw some extra attention, time and energy to raising resilience.
In my book I call parents’ attention to 3 categories of stressors.
- Social stress - anything to do with connection and relationship
- Environmental stress - anything to do with the environment and space around us
- Biological stress - things going on deep in the body that influence our ability to self regulate (these are the food related ones that are too often missed).
So here are my top tips to smooth out the back to school stress storm, keeping that context in mind…
Connect with your kids as deeply and as frequently as you can. We are their anchor and the more confident they feel in their connection with us the better they will feel when they have to spend the bulk of the day without us.
Some things that might help this…
- Plan your meals for the first week or two of school so you have more time to spend with them
- Eat dinner together if at all possible
- Play board games after dinner as a family
- Talk about their teachers, wonder about their school year with them
There are some great ideas posted in the Raising Resilience Community Facebook group so be sure to check that out.
Tip #2. Simplify
Keep routine and spaces as predictable, clean and organized as possible. Don’t under estimate the impact of a child’s environment on their state of mind.
Most kids feel better when spaces are organized, clean and predictable (even though they might not seem to feel that way). Think also about sound and colour… how can that become more conducive to calm? Diffused essential oils can be helpful as well, to calm the nervous system.
At this time of year I do a deep clean of the house and I insist that my kids clean their rooms and organize their school supplies. Yes, there’s some pushback, but we do it over a few days and in the end it helps.
Tip #3: Nourish. I have 4 suggestions here.
Reduce the foods that irritate your child’s body.
If you know of particular food sensitivities now’s a good time to pull your energy back to focusing on reducing those to relieve pressure on the digestive, immune and nervous systems. It’s also a great time to reduce sugar, gluten and non-fermented dairy, since those are taxing to the digestive and nervous systems for most of us.
Plan nourishing meals.
The body’s stress response system require massive amounts of nutrients. Now is the time for real, whole, nutritionally dense foods. If you can't get sufficient nutrients in using food, now's a good time to use supplements to fill the gap.
Get sufficient sleep.
This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways. Sleep is when we detoxify, grow, reset hormones, integrate learning. A lot is happening in that body when your child sleeps. Your school-aged child should be getting at least 10 hours of sleep a night.
Dehydration is an overlooked stressor. Our brains require sufficient hydration to work properly. Get your child to drink at least 1-2 L of water a day and be sure they have a reusable water bottle to take to school with them.
This helps. Trust me.
Do you see how context is everything? These strategies are simple, but when you see your child’s health and behaviour through the lens of stress and resilience you can see how important and powerful they can be.
Managing your child’s social, environmental and biological stressors at home will set a solid foundation upon which all the other interventions from teachers, doctors or therapists can build.