Just two weeks ago we took off to the beach for our annual summer vacation. The time flew by fast, but as part of a family tradition, we always celebrate our last night at the beach with a bonfire and roasted marshmallows, saying goodbye to the sand and ocean until next season. The best part of this ritual for me is experiencing the excitement and anticipation that the kids have during that final day as they speak non-stop about the sunset adventure that awaits them: marshmallows toasted crisp to perfection, who is going to dig the deepest hole, and of course, who gets to strike the first match with Dad.
Moments like these with our children are to be treasured of course, but along with this joy also comes the knowing that soon school will begin, and once again, we'll find ourselves in the thick of parent meetings, after school activities, and rushing to pack snacks and lunches at the last hour.
This year I've decided to take a fresh approach to helping our family ease back into the school transition, and would like to share what I consider my Top 5!
1. Bedtime Routines
Getting a healthy amount of sleep is the number one priority I suggest parents focus upon for promoting optimal health. When you sleep, it's the body's prime time to work on healing itself and restoring its systems into a state of balance. It is also the time when you solidify and store all that you have learned throughout the day, as information transfers from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. Since we all tend to keep more lenient bedtime hours with our kids during the summer, a good pattern to follow is two weeks before school, start bumping up bedtime by 10-15 minutes each night until you've reached the ratio when your children are getting at least 10 hours of sleep each night. Bedtime rituals are also important to have in place such as: a warm bath or shower with a few drops of Weleda's Lavender Relaxing Body Oil or Epsom Salt to calm and relax the body, a cup of warm herbal tea to settle the stomach such as chamomile or peppermint, and my favorite, lighting a pure Beeswax candle before book time to purify the air and set the mood for a good story about to be told - always read to your children - no matter how old they are!
2. Screen Time
If your children are like mine and they sometimes can't get enough of Minecraft or Mickey, you'll want to start pulling back on their screen time a few weeks before school so they can essentially detox from all of the electromagnetics they've taken on. Remember: if you notice that your children are becoming cranky or disagreeable once you cut back on the screen time, this is a strong indicator that their adrenals are most likely zapped and tapped out. It may be a good time to ask your family doctor about introducing a high-quality children's multi-vitamin or soaking in bath salts to replenish their minerals.
3. Talk About Potential Stressors
Even as parents, we tend to experience anxiety at the onset of school, as we worry about our children being happy, using the bathrooms, finding their classrooms, and integrating into a new group of friends. Children can sense our anxiety quite easily so it 's important that we remain optimistic for them and approach this transition from a perspective of adventure and opportunity, rather than fear. Dialoging over a meal as to what they may be feeling is an opportunity to help ease their minds and provide comfort through listening while validating that they've been heard.
4. Create A Monthly Meal Menu Together
If your family is like mine, in the summertime we tend to up our intake of sugar, desserts, and the occasional dough filled pastry from our local bakery here in town. Our summer meals tend to be more on the fly and we definitely graze on snacks much more than we do in wintertime. Something our kids find to be a lot of fun is putting together a monthly meal plan, where they each get to choose a fun food for their snack bags, and they get to participate in taking ownership as to what meals we'll be having as a family. We work together to come up with ideas that are healthy and interesting, and then we put everything into a chart that hangs on the refrigerator for all of us to see. Not only does this take the pressure off of us in the morning when putting together meals for the day, but even more importantly, it provides the children with a sense of comfort because they know what to expect in regard to what's coming next. It also gives them something to look forward to, and it's the one part of their day they know they can count on as being a sure thing.
5. End of Summer Rituals / Traditions
Wether it's a bonfire on the beach or quick get-a-way over Labor Day weekend, it's important to plan a special event just before school starts so that children can experience closure to their summer vacation, which will help them to step forward with ease into the next phase of transitions. Whatever the event or outing may be, I greatly encourage you to create an annual tradition around it, so that your children will carry these joyful memories with them for the rest of their lives...and so will you!
If you have a favorite family tradition or summer transition routine you'd like to share, please add it in the comments below - I would love to hear from you!