The start of the school year is a busy, hectic time for everyone. First days of school. New teachers. New schedules. Not only can the logistics of new routines be overwhelming, but the transition from summer to fall can also be emotionally draining for everyone in the family.  Gone are the carefree days of summer and again we must get used to responsibilities, homework and adjusting to increased structure in our days. While the reality of these challenges cannot be changed, our feelings about them and responses to them can shift. Mindfulness offers parents a way to feel less scattered and more centered with all the changes that come along with the start of the school year.

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what is happening in the present moment with curiosity and without judgment. Being mindful need not be intimidating or time consuming. For example, it does not require you to adapt a daily meditation practice. It can be as simple as intentionally taking a PAUSE.

First, set an intention to practice taking more pauses in your day. Then, in any moment throughout your day, use your breath (which is always available to you) to breathe in slowly and deeply. Then take a moment to just NOTICE what is going on around you and inside of you.  What you are thinking and feeling? What do you see and hear? Notice without making a judgment that it is good or bad/right or wrong.  It just is. Then CHOOSE how you would like to respond to the situation.

For example, in many households, mornings can be stressful and chaotic. Everyone needs to wake up, get fed and dressed, hair and teeth brushed, and out the door on time with everything they need for the day.  There may be arguing, stalling, and not listening. Amidst the chaos, make a choice to take a moment to step back and just notice what is happening. Maybe, after you have asked your child to put on their shoes for the fifth time, this is perfect opportunity to PAUSE.

Instead of asking a sixth time or yelling, take a breath. Notice what is going on for them and for you. You might say to yourself: “I’m noticing my muscles are getting really tight. I’m noticing that I’m feeling really worried we will miss the bus. And I am thinking about that work deadline I have today and I really can’t handle this from my kid today. And I see my kid seems distracted and nervous and I’m not sure why.”  You don’t need to evaluate or judge these observations. Just notice them and allow them to guide you as you decide how you respond next.  Perhaps you will bring the shoes to your child and say: “It looks like one of those mornings when you need a little more help getting ready.” Whatever you decide to do next, being mindful and taking a PAUSE has given you the chance to respond from a more grounded, aware place.  Taking this moment to center yourself makes it more likely that you will make a wiser choice than if you had simply reacted. In this way, mindfulness can support parents and their families in feeling more grounded and more at ease with all the changes that lie ahead for the school year and beyond.