Some say they look forward to the back-to-school season. It brings more structure back to the day. It’s fun to jump back into read-aloud books, new academics, and fresh extracurricular activities. Some people just love all the new supplies and the way those pointy sharpened pencils smell as they come out of the crisp and glossy box.
Others despise school starting up again. With the beginning of new subjects come new frustrations, new fights, and new challenges. We can dread the new routines, especially the ones that are characterized by whiny children. The stress of tight finances can quickly heighten anxiety around the new school year, and the pressure to get everything done in addition to assisting with various subjects can feel daunting at best.
So, how can we approach this annual transition in a way that will provide peace to the family, clear direction for parents, and courage to everyone involved?
Let’s explore three mindset strategies that have a great impact on how we both perceive the future as well as determine our actions today.
3 Mindset Strategies for Back-to-School Season
1) Remember: Even the Best Transitions Can Be Stressful
When routines change or new habits become necessary, it throws everyone off. We can sometimes do a little (or a lot) of squirming inside and out while we figure out our automatic processes again in this new rhythm. It’s important to remember that this temporary stress isn’t an indicator that something is wrong or not working, but rather that the entire family is simply figuring out how things fit together again with new puzzle pieces.
If you can remember that the uncomfortable feelings of creating a new routine or system are temporary, and remind others you are working with that this type of stress is a normal part of the process, you’ll find that you can relax much faster.
It also helps you make wise decisions.
I remember one client of Mary Aldrich Coaching who changed math curriculum about every three weeks one year because she was determined to find the one that “worked” for her children. In reality, the problem was not any of the math programs she had chosen. The problem was that she was never patient enough to get through the transition time to see if the issue was the program or simply the resistance to change that various children in the family displayed.
If you want an accurate picture of whether a new idea is working, you’ve got to be consistent with it long enough to eliminate the transition as the primary issue.
2) Remember: Watch Out for Shiny Object Syndrome
What is it about a new school year and a fresh start that often makes us put our reasonable, realistic brain in a box, close the lid, and then go plan three times too many things for our children to do? It is as if the summer has given us amnesia to the amount of activities, subjects, and “fun” things we can commit to. We get easily distracted by all of the possibilities and want them all for our children. Consequently, we overcommit them and ourselves and quickly find our entire family burning out early in the fall.
How do we solve this?
Start with your primary purpose.
What is the number one purpose of your school choices this year? If your child was going to grow in a SINGLE area, what would you want that to be?
Then run every other choice, decision, and idea through the lens of this priority. Does this afternoon sport enhance or detract from that priority? Does this English class enhance or detract from that priority? Does this part-time job enhance or detract from that number one priority?
If you feel that the activity neither directly enhances nor detracts from your priority, then I encourage you to consider other ways of attacking the decision:
“What do I most want them to spend their time doing?”
“If I couldn’t get it wrong, what would I choose?”
“Do I think this choice will be one I love or regret in five years? How about by the end of THIS year?
Choose wisely. You can always add more later, but beginning with an agenda that feels a little too easy can be a gift to your family in this day and age.
3) Remember: You Set the Tone
As we choose curriculum and clothes, teachers and textbooks, schedules and supplies, notice who you choose to be. Without realizing it, we parents can quickly go into an analytical zone that communicates stress. We can seem distant—even robotic—to others while we are planning, making choices, and getting ready. If we are stressed about the decisions we are making, it is likely that stress will rub off on others around us. Do this enough times, and our family can begin to learn a belief that starting school is a time of stress, hard decisions, and a lack of adequate attention from you.
Who do you want your children to be as they begin their school year and as they navigate the transitions that come in the first several weeks? Perhaps take a minute to jot down their ideal behavior, attitudes, and actions.
Are you longing to see them…
Kind in the face of adversity?
Patient with themselves?
Diligent and persevering?
Grateful and generous to others?
Now, be honest with yourself: Are you exhibiting those qualities as a parent while you help them prepare? You’ve heard that more is caught than taught, and this area is certainly no different.
The most effective thing you can do to help your children enter into this new school year with happy, resilient hearts is to work on your own mindset. Whatever personal work you need to do to get there—that’s the task.
The school year can be a wonderful, rich time of learning, growing closer together, and developing new habits that last a lifetime. And you, as the parent, can propel these goals forward.
– Relax. Tension will increase during transitions, but it will settle down as everyone learns the new routine.
– Keep your main priority always in front of you as you make decisions.
– Choose attitudes of kindness, patience, consistency, and generosity towards your family and others.
Friend, I’m cheering for your joyful success this season!
About the Author
Mary Aldrich is a laser-focused life coach for women of all ages and an energetic homeschooling mom of seven. Mary’s passion is to help families who are longing for real joy, deeper relationships, and less overwhelm in their everyday life through coaching people through their conflicts. She is the founder of Supermom School, the Supermom School Podcast, and is an inspirational speaker and retreat leader.