I’m honored to present our guest writer, Katie Manitsas, who is my teacher, mentor and dear friend. She was the Director of Jivamukti Yoga Sydney and is a mom to three gorgeous boys. Katie also wrote the Foreword for Anna and her Rainbow-Colored Yoga Mats. She shares her insights on ways to ease the stress of school transition.
Reflections from an Australian Yogi mum about school transition
‘The nature of external reality is constant change, the nature of the true Self is changeless ’ Buddha
This year is a big one for me and my family as both of my children started school (in Australia where we live the school year starts in January).
My three year old began three days a week at a wonderful local community run preschool and my ‘big boy’ (five year old) started ‘big boy school’. So grown up!
The transition for all of us has been huge, we’ve gone from the gentle rhythm of daytime sleeps, local park and library visits and lots of time at home just hanging out to the busy-ness of bags packed, uniforms on and school bells ringing.
Both my boys have loved school (so far – we’re just at the beginning and I do realise this could and probably will go through phases and changes) and our new rhythm is starting to flow.
Here are some tips which reflect some of the processes and dreamings I went through as I ‘let go’ and my children and I move into this new phase.
I hope they will be of help to you.
Many of these tips apply not only to beginning school but to beginning any new phase or transition in your family’s life. For example, many of the ideas here applied when I was toilet training my boys (another big transition) or when I had times that I had to travel or we travelled together and our usual routine was disrupted.
Six ways to ease the stress of the whole family during the school transition
1. As things change keep as much as possible the same
For example pack familiar foods in their lunchboxes, choose things your children know and love to eat. Even using a familiar container, bag or drinks flask is helpful in giving your child a sense of continuity and familiarity rather than an ‘everything is new’ feeling which might be overwhelming.
Another good example here is around the bedtime routine. Keep things the same. We do bath / pajamas / story / sleep and it is exactly the same every night.
2. Prioritize sleep and rest
Don’t under estimate how much energy a new rhythm asks of a littlie. Keep things simple. We’ve spent lots of afternoons after school quietly at home and minimised play dates or other activities such as swimming lessons for a while.
3. Don’t probe and interrogate your child about their day
I learnt this one the hard way! I’m was so excited to hear all about what my children had been up to that I couldn’t help myself and become a little overbearing with my questioning after school. Getting information out of them was like trying to get blood from a stone!
What I have found is that when I back off they come to me and chat about school when they are ready. Often the timing is incongruous but as long as I’m around and willing to listen they are actually happy to share a fair bit in their own time and their own way.
4. Allow some regression
As your child moves forward in life sometimes a few steps backwards happen too. You might find your little one is extra clingy or needs more help falling asleep at night or using the bathroom for example. Relaxation and confidence building techniques can help here.
Giselle recommended Carolyn Clarke’s book, Imaginations: Fun Relaxation Stories and Meditations for Kids, which we are excited to try out together. Be forgiving and know that this is just a phase that will pass. Young children need to know we are there to ‘hold the space’ for them when changes happen in their lives.
5. Practice active relaxation techniques
My boys love the Kids Yoga Stories books. They read and act out Sophia’s Jungle Adventure together after school. I’m so happy to have found an activity that the boys can do together, other than involving screen time. They act out the jungle animals and we talk about Costa Rica and other similar places as a family.
Kids yoga helps children to be adaptable and teaches them stress management techniques which will be valuable into adulthood.
6. Prioritize a nourishing diet that gives sustained energy
Lots of parents notice their children don’t eat much when in school or preschool. The new routine, the whole concept of a lunch box or canteen meal and the self- sufficiency of meal times in the big world rather than at home can be a lot for a little one to deal with.
I’ve compensated for this with a big protein rich breakfast every morning (think free-range eggs, porridge or green smoothies).
I also provide an ‘afternoon tea’ when the kids finish school as they are often tired and overwhelmed at this time of day and hunger doesn’t help. We have popcorn, home baked muffins, fruit or avocado toast (my boys love to sprinkle nutritional yeast on to this – it’s an all time favourite snack in our house) to stave off the hunger demons until it’s time for our family evening meal.
How do you ease the stress of school transition?
I hope you found something useful here along your school transition journey. For other ways to integrate the yoga principles into your life, check out Katie’s books:
For other back to school articles and resources, sign up to our weekly Kids Yoga Stories newsletter
by adding your email address to the subscription box at the top of the page.