Thinking Ahead

Clearly, moving from middle school to high school in the Fall is top-of-mind for my youngest.

My youngest was out in our living room pacing ever so slightly back and forth. “What’s up,” I asked. “Nothing,” he replied, and then he stopped walking and made a hmmm noise. “Well, actually…” he said, “I’m thinking about high school and what those changes will mean for me.” His facial expression was a mix of anticipation and fear. His older brother just went through enrollment for his classes, so it would make sense this was on his mind.

“Are you concerned about something?” I asked. “Well, maybe. I’m concerned it’s going to be a lot more. Classes. The teachers are going to be strict. There’s going to be more homework.” I could see he was stressed about the upcoming change (though it’s still months away). I thought for a minute before responding. “You’re right that change is coming, and I’ve yet to meet anyone that likes change, especially when it’s unclear what exactly the change will be. The good news is, while change isn’t easy, it’s something we all have to go through throughout life, and each time you show yourself you’re able to adapt and successfully make the change, the more confidence you have the next time round. You’ve already gone through some big changes—moving homes, moving from elementary to middle school, learning to navigate public transit and more. Yes, it will be different, but you should grow in your capabilities and feel good about it.”

He exhaled, lowered his shoulders, and smiled. “You’re right, I can do this. Thanks.” That ended the conversation.

We can, too often, look ahead and get anxious, worried, or concerned about the unknown. Change is hard, regardless the age — whether it’s planned or thrust upon you. It’s how you use the tools, including experience, you have to know you can get through whatever life throws at you next.

How do you handle change? How are you helping your child navigate it?

Time Management

Are you good at managing your time?

Before my oldest started school this Fall we talked about juggling priorities — school, sports, and other activities. We discussed he’d be learning time management and how to prioritize and get what’s needed done first, and wants second. We’re nearing the end of his first term and grades will be coming out soon. His sports season is wrapping up as well. He has expressed he is struggling juggling with it all.

His school gives parents access online to a student’s grades and assignments. It’s a way for parents to have a view into how their child is doing along the way. My husband and I rarely go in, not because it might be helpful or useful, but because we want our son to learn he has to stay on top of his studies without us watching him like a hawk. He is in an Advanced Placement (AP) class that allows students to gain college credit while in high school if they can pass the given exam at the end of the year. In order to get him signed up for the end of year exam, I had to go into the site that shows his grades and assignment completions to find the name of the teacher and class he’d be taking the test we needed to pay for. I couldn’t help but notice there were several assignments he hadn’t turned in (thankfully his grades looked pretty good). I asked him later that day about the assignments. He was surprised — not that I had looked, but that he hadn’t gotten all of his assignments in. He checked in with his teachers the following day, turned in the missing assignments, and was actually thankful it had been caught as it would have lowered his grade if it had not been addressed.

After some particularly long days for my son, which seemed to consist of wake-up, go to school, go to practice, eat dinner, sleep, he had little time to get his schoolwork done. He shared he was struggling, I asked him,”What did we say you’d have to learn and start to master this year?” He responded, “Time management.” I was glad he remembered without any prompting for me. “That’s right,” I said, “We need to think through what tools will help you.” He jumped in, “But I’m so tired when I get home and just want to zone out for a little while.” I completely understood how he felt. I, too, remember the stress increasing as I progressed in high school. I asked him what he was struggling with most. “Homework,” he shared, “when I get home I eat dinner then go through all my classes to see what homework I have.” I shared that was a good start, and suggested he add a designated time to do homework as a way to help — give him a little time to relax after practice, but time enough to get homework done before he goes to bed. “It’s hard,” he said. I agreed with him, but reminded him that learning these skills now will help him as he gets older.

Do you have a child who has a busy schedule and is struggling to manage it all? What strategies or tools are you sharing with them to help them better manage their time?

Facing Fear

While Halloween is this weekend and many are looking to be scared, my youngest was faced with a fear unrelated to ghosts and goblins, but something that had been haunting him for a while — riding a bike on public streets.

My son’s school has teamed up with an organization that has the students ride bikes to a destination within a few miles of the school one day a week. When they reach their destination they do a service project and then bike back to school. It’s been a great activity for the kids. My husband and I were curious how our son was doing. He had had a bad experience at a younger age when he biked on a public road accidentally running his bike into a car (I blogged about it previously). When we asked how biking went he gave short answers, and was vague. We started pressing him for further details and he confessed that he hadn’t been riding bikes with his classmates and had been staying behind at school with the teachers. We asked him why he hadn’t talked about this before, and he shared he had been embarrassed that he couldn’t do it. We talked through options: we could help him practice riding with us at home in our neighborhood to get him more comfortable, he could talk to his teachers about ways to help him get more comfortable. He didn’t take us up on our suggestions. Another week went by, another excuse why he didn’t ride.

The night before our son’s school was due to ride bikes again, my husband and I sat our son down. We stressed the importance of pushing his comfort zone, and his need to have success riding his bike. We told him our expectation was he would ride, and working through his fear was a skill he needed to develop, and that building it now, would help him when he needs to face uncomfortable situations in the future. He agreed he would ride.

I half expected to learn my son didn’t ride his bike again, but was pleasantly surprised when he texted me on his way home from school alerting me that he had ridden with the group the entire time. I was so proud of him, but what made me happiest was seeing how proud my son was of himself. He was glowing. What a wonderful moment to share.

What does your child fear? How are you helping them work through any fears?

Silver Linings

What’s grabbing your attention during the pandemic?

The first few weeks, news of the virus held my attention, but as time has gone on, I’ve started tuning more into the needs of myself, my family and others. Just paying attention– really close attention — to my boys and how they are doing has led my husband and I to have some ‘aha’ moments we easily would have missed if the pre-Covid-19 busyness was still around — be it how they are doing with school, dealing with isolation, and their overall health.

We did have a moment this week, where being tuned in to my kids felt really nice. My oldest got a notification that it was time to register for high school and the classes he’d like to take (electives beyond mandatory courses). I knew it might create stress for him since it’s the first time he’s had to make these types of choices in this way. We sat down together and watched the tutorials and downloaded the course catalogue and after awhile, got the hang for what he needed to do. It probably took all of 30 minutes, but I realized how having no distractions (nothing else my mind was focused on — such as an upcoming work day or appointment I needed to keep) allowed me to relax and have patience to spend the needed time with him. It showed me how impatient I’ve been in the past in these types of situations, and provided me an opportunity to be there for my son — truly be there for him — to help him. I knew he was fine once he started reaching out to his friends so they could try to coordinate schedules. 😊

I sometimes miss the rush of my previously busy life, but continue to look for the silver linings. Being able to pay attention fully has been one of those gifts.

What silver linings are you experiencing as a result of the pandemic?

The Start of Something New

Is your child starting at a new school this year?

My youngest is entering middle school. His first new school in six years. He’s feeling a range of emotions – anticipation and excitement over the new school, what he’ll learn, how it will be different from elementary school, meeting the new students, and making new friends. He is also mourning elementary school. Classmates he grew close to, particularly towards the end of the year. Already missing those that will be moving away, or going to other middle schools. Concerned about if he will make new friends, concerned if he is ready for the harder material, ready for the independence he is gaining.

As a parent, I too am experiencing a range of emotions. I’m excited for him, but also concerned–will he be accepted as he is, will this experience be good for him, will he grow as my husband and I hope from it? I think every parent has these concerns at one time or another. But I have to let him go in order for him to grow, find himself, struggle, make mistakes and be there to help him work through the tough times, and celebrate the successes.

We’ll have the first day of school behind us before we know it. We’ll navigate the start of this something new like we have before (daycare and kindergarten)–by being open to what’s to come with optimism, preparing for unforeseen bumps, experiencing them as they come, and moving onward.

How do you help your child when they start something new? How do you help them adjust?

I’ll be off for Labor Day weekend and back in mid-September.

It Takes a Village

Who is helping you raise your child?

There are many people that are helping my husband and I raise our kids–family, friends, babysitters, caregivers, teachers, doctors–I refer to this folks as part of our village. Each member plays a critical role in the care, nurturing, mentoring, tending to, and shaping of my boys.

My youngest son’s recent distress required we revisit resources available to him. My son’s village will likely have some new members in the near future. 😊 We’re also now having to rethink environments in which will help him thrive academically and emotionally in the future. The previous known path now isn’t so clear. This lack of clarity is causing me discomfort I haven’t felt this intensely in a while. I’m concerned about doing right by my son and making the right decisions for what’s best for him. It does give me comfort to know I have a village I can turn to for guidance, information, encouragement and support.

How is part of your child’s village?

An Uncertain Future

With a new school year right around the corner, there is a lot of angst in our house. What will the new school year be like? Will my children fit in, make friends and be okay?

As parents, we ask ourselves these questions each year.

This year, my family will be at another crossroads. My oldest will be heading off to middle school. There is a lot of angst for him, even though he will be going to a school with many familiar faces, the unknown is concerning to him. The school is much larger than his elementary school (with almost 3x the number of students). It would be overwhelming to anyone. Throw in that he is quickly becoming a teen, and all that comes with it — being more self conscious and concerned with how others view you — and your anxiety would rise too. I remember middle school and I shudder. Of all my school years, it’s those that I wish I could have skipped. They were awkward, I never felt comfortable in my own skin, and experienced a heightened sense of needing to survive to get through those years. I’m desperately trying not to project my experience on my son, and am hopeful his time in middle school will be much better mine.

My younger will be in elementary school for the first time on his own. Of course, he too has many classmates who are familiar to him, but I’m anxious about how he will do on his own. Part of me knows I need to give him more credit. He’s a resilient kid, and will figure it out.

As a parent, I’m reminded during times like these how much is out of our control. I can certainly try to help my children prepare for the school year, but ultimately they will be the ones going to school and while I can help them as much as possible up front, I have to let go and let them fail or succeed on their own.

Parenting is tough when the future is uncertain. Have I done all I can to prepare them (with knowledge, insights, strategies for how to deal with different situations, etc.)? I guess we will see.

How do you help your kids get ready for the new school year? How do you help them navigate being in a new environment?

 

5th Grade Graduation

How much fanfare surrounded your 5th grade graduation?

There was none for mine, and I don’t mean a little, I mean there was none, zero, nada. The general consensus was everyone should be graduating 5th grade or there was a bigger problem that needed to be addressed.  Clearly times have changed, and now there is a desire to more frequently celebrate these milestones. I just didn’t know there would be so many activities. A graduation ceremony seemed a little over the top to me, but then I started getting the notices: Don’t Forget the 5th Grade breakfast, Don’t Forget the 5th Grade Field Trip, Send Pictures for the Baby Picture Wall, Who Can Help with the Legacy Project, etc. Wow, times have changed.

It has been fun digging up old pictures (though challenging after a long days work) and reminiscing around just how far we’ve come. It was fun going to the breakfast and catching up with other parents and recalling first days at school, and how our children, who were once very attached to us are now wanting their space. My son wanted me at the breakfast, but didn’t want to interact with me per se at the breakfast. 🙂 Not to worry, I remember being his age. I was pulling away from my parents as well trying to find myself, just as he is finding his. It is hard to believe that he’ll be moving up to middle school. I’ve relished the protective cocoon of elementary school and dreaded the day he’d move into a less protected space. He feels and I feel it. It’s hard not to acknowledge that time is passing and things are changing. And while I initially felt the school might be over-doing it with all the 5th Grade graduation activities, I’m appreciating it more and more. As the school year nears it’s end, I’m clinging to every day desperately wanting to slow time. My son’s growing up. Time will keep moving. I’m going to cherish every minute.

How are you celebrating your child’s milestones?

I will be off for the holiday weekend and back in July. Happy 4th!

 

Stressed Out

Have you ever seen your child stressed out?

My boys participate in their school play. One acts in the play, the other is in stage crew. Both want to do a good job each year, all the kids do. Mistakes always happen — sometimes ones you can easily recover from (e.g. someone walks out on stage at the wrong time, but quickly gets themselves back off), some not (e.g. someone says the wrong long line and it throws everyone else off — the kids struggle with whether they should pick up at the new spot or try to get the scene restarted where it should have). For the kids it is stressful. For the parents, it’s hard to notice (because you aren’t as aware of every single line, object placement and timing of everything like those participating are), and hard to console once you’ve realized it happens (e.g. upset kids after the show).  You try saying, “You did a great job!” and “You made a mistake? Well, no one noticed” which is often times true, but to the kids, they feel embarrassed, disappointed, sad, and/or angry. I’ve had mild success in getting them to acknowledge that performing and supporting the cast, regardless of mistakes, takes guts; and that the experience is supposed to be something they enjoy not fret over. They appease me with mumble’s of “okay, Mom” or “yea, we get it,” but it’s not convincing. Once the play is over, the stress disappears replaced by relief which is interesting to tangibly see — smiles on their faces, bodies less tense, more willing to engage — it got me thinking about my husband and I and our own stresses and how that must come across to our kids.

I sometimes think I didn’t know what stress was until I became a parent — the kids are not the cause; I am. I want to be present with my kids, teach them things, have fun and enjoy parenthood. At the same time, juggling a job and the increase in household responsibilities (meals, cleaning, carpooling, etc.) requires energy which gets depleted with so many things needing to get done. Being a parent can sometimes feel like a performance too. We are moving things (much like a stage crew) and do our own ‘acting’ when we put on a brave or ‘everything’s fine’ face in front of others when we are in fact tired, strained, and stressed.  Throw on what’s going on in our country politically, and the stress can feel overwhelming. When I force myself to relax I notice that I hold my shoulders high and my jaw tensed. Amazing that I don’t realize this or feel it until I’m forced to take a few deep breaths and lower my shoulders and loosen my jaw. I wonder what that looks like to my kids seeing Mom more relaxed, more easily smiling and more willing to engage then just trying to get through to what’s next. My guess is they prefer it to stressed out Mom, who is more snippy and less present.

My kids have once again reminded me of things I need to work on. Step 1) Notice stress, Step 2) Let it go. I’m much happier (not to mention more pleasant to be around) when I do this.

How do you handle stress? How do you help your child handle theirs?

 

I Don’t Wanna

I don’t know about you, but the evening of January 2nd in our house wasn’t pretty. After some time off to rest and recharge, including a visit with family and playing in the snow, we had reached the eve of needing to go back to work and school, and we were all collectively bummed out about it.

“I don’t wanna go back to school,” said my oldest. “Me either,” chimed in my youngest. I’m not particularly excited myself, I thought. It’s hard to let go of the joy you feel from vacation, from experiencing something new (location, activity), or anew (like reconnecting with family and friends). I had to remind myself several times over break to stay in the moment and not let my thoughts drift too far into what awaited for me to pick back up on January 3rd.

On Tuesday morning, we started getting back into our old schedule. While it would have been nice to sleep in later, or have free time to do what we wanted, there was a peace to getting back into our daily routine. I could even see my kids coming to the same conclusion as they started thinking about gifts they had received over break and how they couldn’t wait to show them off. There was anticipation over seeing friends they hadn’t seen in a few weeks. Tuesday morning was turning out to be not that bad.  While we had been dreading going back, the dread was wearing off.

“I know what will help,” my son shared as we were driving to school, “we should plan another trip!” The idea of getting to plan another vacation (even a short one) seemed to put us over the top — we were happy and January 3rd was going to be a fine day (and it was).

How do you help your child transition between something they are enjoying and something they dread?

Happy New Year!