The beginning of the school year is full of excitement, expense, and in our house, a pile of nerves. I feel bad that I passed this onto my kids, but they all seem to have this anxiety of the unknown that’s so common in transition. I still have nightmares about the beginning of the school year even though I’ve been out of the classroom for almost six years. Each of my kids have a different way of showing their nerves: nail biting, weird (annoying) noises, retreating to bedrooms, sour moods. I’ve seen it all this week.
Bedtime has been especially hard. We aren’t strict in the summer about getting to bed early because I (selfishly) like quiet mornings when they’re all asleep. That transition to an earlier bedtime always makes me regret our summer "routine".
I’m an optimist, so last week I marched the kids upstairs early and then got aggravated when they refused to calm down immediately. Okay, maybe it was more foolishness than optimism.
At the beginning of this week, however, I knew we needed a new strategy. On the spur of the moment, when I was about to head upstairs for more frustration and conflict, I had an idea. I told the kids to run upstairs, brush teeth, get jammies on, and bring down a book. In the meantime, I turned on some quiet music, lit a candle, and turned on a few lights in the living room. When the kids entered the room, their mood changed. It was like they walked through a screen that filtered out the nervous energy and what came through were our kids (not the weird animals they have been the past few days).
Everyone found a place to get comfortable and opened their books. The non-readers turned the pages and looked at pictures while the readers dug in. What followed was 20 minutes of quiet which culminated in all four of them falling asleep within minutes of heading upstairs. (A miracle in our house)
I wish I had more tips about navigating transition, but I only have a few:
Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” It seems so obvious, but in the heat of nervous times, I often forget this truth. I get in “let’s fix it” mode and forget where my power comes from. Times of transition should be times of prayer. Period. If transitions aren’t marked by prayer, we’re asking for things to fail.
2. Take time to do the things that help
It seemed counterintuitive to spend time reading when the clock was ticking at bedtime, but that time was going to be spent doing something other than sleeping anyway, so it made sense to do something less aggravating with it. This could also be getting organized so all the papers that start flying through the door at the beginning of the year have a place. Otherwise, you may just lose a kid under the piles. Although, that might simplify things, it’s not a solution. I wrote a blog post with tips for managing piles last year. Check it out, if this is a struggle. Having a place for things like book bags, lunch boxes, and a system for making getting out the door more manageable will ease the stress level as well. We make a bunch of muffins at the beginning of the year, individually wrap them and throw them in the freezer for quick breakfasts. Forty seconds in the microwave and they’re ready to go. Taking time to create a system that work for your family is worth every second once things get hectic.
3. Embrace the fun stuff.
Even though transition makes me nervous, I like a little bit of change. It’s exciting and a chance to develop new habits that can bring me closer to God and my family. When those things present themselves, take time to enjoy them. Three kids getting on the bus each day gives me precious time with my littlest. I’d be remised if I didn’t make the most of it. If your kids are making new friends at school, take time to enjoy that process. Making new friends can be tough at any age, so when my kids are brave enough to do it, I like to celebrate. Invite them over or reach out to their parents. Maybe just give your kids a pat on the back for being inclusive and brave.
4. It’s just a phase.
It’s called transition because it’s temporary. Things will become normal again and the nerves should subside. The next few weeks may be tired ones, but just like anything, it’ll pass. Pray, be smart, and find a way to make the fun stuff fun and before you know it, they’ll be in a groove. Just in time for the holidays when all bets are off. More on that later.