Start the new school year with flying colours
When this time of year comes around, many of us will reminisce over the delight of receiving a fresh box of pencils, or blank notebooks. While the start of a new school year is often filled with the more positive feelings of hope right through to excitement, it’s equally natural to also experience the opposite spectrum – from the mild sadness of summer ending, through to anxiety and depression.
What’s more, being a parent of a child who doesn’t want to start school or even go to school due to social anxiety, can be very stressful. In a child’s development, starting school is a pivotal point in psychological terms, where they are required to develop and manage multiple relationships with all kinds of new people, in addition to close family members. Transitioning to secondary school or university also has its challenges, as young adults begin to discover their own autonomy and independence.
In this article, we’re going to explore the many psychological adjustments that both parents and children need to make at the start of a new school year – and how to be mindful along the way.
Navigating the post-holiday blues
Whether you’re a child or an adult, any time our routine changes in a significant way, there’s always a period of adjustment – and we must always remember, this includes psychological adjustment as well. When going into an extended period of holiday time, for example, we have a great opportunity to release the daily tensions we hold within our psyche and nervous system around the need to perform for others (in our jobs, or at school). All of a sudden, the need to achieve something in a set timeframe or be somewhere on time, vanishes – and the experience of time itself takes on a new, unstructured quality.
During unstructured time, psychologists have discovered that this is often a time when people become ill. In fact, there is a term for this phenomenon – “leisure sickness”, coined by Ad Vingerhoets, a Dutch psychologist. This phenomenon goes to show just how closely interrelated our mind and bodies truly are.
So going back to structured time after a period of being highly unstructured, will also have an impact on us. As the parent of a child going back to school, mindful parenting is going to be critical in ensuring a healthy transition – so that your child can make the most of the new school year ahead.
Things to be mindful of as the year progresses
At the start of every new school year, lies a fresh set of expectations – your child is expected to have mastered all the lessons of the past year and be ready for new growth. In addition to this, children are often being evaluated, assessed and compared to their peers – this also generates pressure or stress. While a certain amount of structure and pressure can act as a motivating factor and drive growth, it’s essential for children to have adults they can turn to, if the pressure gets too much.
While there are some mindful teachers who have the capacity to monitor these factors, so many teachers are pressed for time and resources, and are often unable to assist children through their interpersonal or psychological development. Ideally, children can turn to a parent to express themselves, in such a way that they are heard and understood.
It would be ideal if parents can be mindful of how well your child:
- develops and maintains friendships with fellow classmates
- relates to his/her teacher
- handles homework
- feels about exams and their results
- handles routine and a structured day
- can relax and switch off once the day is done
By monitoring these factors when your children are young, you can help them set up healthy ways of being that will serve them well into the future – especially when they are adults about to enter the workforce, for example.
How compassion and validation is key to mindfulness
Part of mindful relationships is achieving the right balance between our feelings for the other person and their need for space. Sometimes, when you love someone a great deal, you just want to see them do well – especially if, as a parent of a child, you are providing them with opportunities you never had yourself.
Part of our responsibility as parents, is to provide a compassionate and validating space for our children – so that they can express who they are without being judged, and can air how they truly feel. Childhood, right through to early adulthood, is partly a time of experimentation, where we can make mistakes as we learn and grow.
Parents who can allow their child to speak openly with them, so they can get a sense of how life is through their eyes, will often have a better chance of providing the right guidance at the right time.
Establishing flexible, yet clear boundaries
Another part of mindful parenting is to establish boundaries that maintain a safe and loving space for all members of the family. Again, as each school year progresses and as your child grows up, these boundaries will need to be renegotiated and updated on a regular basis.
We’ve helped countless parents establish healthy boundaries within their families – and we’ve helped parents renew a state of conscious relating, if patterns and dynamics have altered things along the way. If you would like to discuss how you relate to your family with a qualified professional, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.