August 22, 2013

Back to School: Zen Style. ~ Dana Gornall

It’s time. The school year has begun.

My Facebook feed is filled with pictures of smiling kids with fresh haircuts dressed in clean clothes and new shoes. Parents are frantically clearing the store shelves of loose leaf paper and highlighters. Stock in Crayola is probably up. The whirlwind has begun.

When I began to write this article, I had to laugh.

Just trying to sit down and write this was a challenge in itself. I had forms to fill out, dinner to make, school supplies to purchase and my daughter needed to get to volleyball practice. I’m lucky I took the afternoon off from work! So how can we, as parents, be more Zen-like during this frenzy? How can we keep our cool?

Applying some principles of Zen, we can take the chaos out of the back to school rush.

1. Awareness

Yes, things are not going to go perfectly. Possibly your child will struggle in class, and you will need to intervene with tutoring or a conference with the teacher. Maybe he/she will have issues with friends. Perhaps bullying will be a problem or your child will get in an argument with a friend.

Know that drawbacks are going to pop up from to time. You can try to stay ahead of the game by educating yourself on matters that are important such as drug use and bullying. Get to know your child’s teacher so you can communicate during the year and be prepared to get the help that is needed.

2. Acceptance and Non-Attachment

Do you have a vision for how you want your child to be? Perhaps you see a first class athlete in the future or you are imagining your son graduating as Valedictorian. These are great thoughts to have and we all want the best for our kids, but being attached to a certain ideal could impede your child’s own individuality. Nurture him for who he is and not only what you imagine.

At the same time, you may need to let go of the image you are projecting for yourself. Do you feel the need to be a super soccer mom or the “hero” dad? Definitely do your best as a parent, but sometimes holding onto a perfect notion of a parent can leave you losing sight of other more pressing needs.

Possibly, while being supermom, you are missing that your daughter is struggling with fitting in or isn’t happy with a subject she is taking.

Go ahead and set goals and dreams, but be aware of what is going on and be prepared to let go of what isn’t working.

3. Compassion

Most of us remember what it was like when we were in school. Some memories are great and some are moments we would like to forget. School life is often full of pressure. Homework can be daunting, teachers are sometimes tough and then there is the whole socializing aspect. Remember the pressures you felt as a student and be mindful of the pressures your child may feel by listening and paying attention.

Have compassion for the teachers also. They have a lot on their plate. Government requirements, staff meetings, and different personalities and needs in the classroom are all issues that they deal with on a daily basis. Be mindful of this in your communication with him/her.

4. Less Is More

Do you really need twelve highlighters? Is your daughter’s backpack in perfect condition, but your are considering or have purchased a new one anyway? Our society loves new things, especially this time of year.

Who doesn’t have fond memories of the smell of a brand new box of crayons? However our environment is suffering because of this apathetic attitude of material things and we are also teaching our children to not put value on their belongings. Why take care of a backpack if you are just going to toss it out at the end of the year anyway?

Try re-using items that are still in good condition from last year. If your child prefers something different, see if you can swap supplies with a neighbor or friend. At my oldest daughter’s school they have a free supply table. Students can donate gently used school supplies and take anything that is needed or wanted. This is a great way to teach your children about being conscious consumers and the importance of recycling.

Still feeling like a truck hit you at the end of the day? Take a deep breath because this too shall pass.

Remember this is all temporary and before you know it you and your family will be rocking out to School’s Out.

Now sit back, and enjoy the school year!

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Ed: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Pixoto

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