The end of August marks one of the natural planetary shifts from the carefree summer days to the decrease of light and the gradual pull for us to say farewell to yet another summer.
For both parents and teachers, it is a time for preparing a new beginning.
For teachers, this time means preparing curriculum and lesson plans and setting up a new environment in the classroom. Another step that I concentrate on is my spiritual practice of tuning into the children and new families who are arriving very soon. As I mentioned in my last entry, I spend a fair amount of time meeting our new parents.
As part of tuning in , I make a point of spending time with families before school starts. This tradition started about seven years ago. One summer afternoon I had the opportunity to facilitate a small play-date with about three of my preschool students. I noticed that in just in the short two months of summer, the children had forgotten how to play fairly with their friends, or had not remembered many of the qualities about friendship that I had spent quite a bit of time teaching in the previous school year.
That was when I reflected inwardly about having more formal gatherings with my families during the summer. I can’t tell you the difference that it makes during those first critical weeks in September. There are so many new things for a young child to learn. The time we have spent together over the summer bonds us all together early as a group so that we can springboard into our daily activities with inner joy not fearful tears.
For parents, this late August transition time means a fond farewell to all the summer activities that their children enjoy: sleeping in late, summer sleepovers with friends, making tent forts in the yard and lemonade stands, taking camping trips, participating in swim team and summer camps. A new path is about to emerge, one that involves preparing everyday lunches, organizing the school supplies, and taking the time to actually look at your child's feet to see if he has outgrown his tennis shoes from last spring.
There are many obvious ways parents can begin to make the transitions from summer to school, so I wanted to share a few of my own reflections.
- Begin to transition their evening dinner and bedtimes to half an hour earlier, and transition this to their normal bedtime a week before school starts.
- For the very young child who has not attended school before read The Kissing Hand. Discuss the new transitions that the child will be making shortly.
- Take short excursions to purchase the items on the supplies list that your child might need for school.
- Begin to practice new morning schedules, even before school starts. What can your child do in the evening to get ready for the next day? Help find his shoes, pack his lunch with you and lay out his clothes.
- Have your child review his summer with you. Have him draw or write a story about his favorite summer activities.
- In your evening schedule, help you child begin to reflect ahead. As he is falling asleep, guide him in mental imagery visualization. Tell your child to imagine walking through the door at school, and to picture who he will meet. Have him see his teacher and his friends. Create a mental picture for him, including where he hang up all his coat, how he will head to the bathroom and wash his hands before entering the classroom. Mentally guide him through his day and also guide him through the stage of your return to the classroom. These visualizations will prepare your child and ease any anxiety of returning for a new year in school.
- If you can go to the school a day or two early, when the teacher is preparing the room, this is also a great way to prepare your child for the first day of school. Call the teacher and see if you can make just a short 15 minute stay.
- Reflect inwardly, write a blessing, and hold a strong intention for your child. Keep it on your own special altar. I often have parents write their blessings and bring them to school. We hang our classroom blessings in our entryway on a "blessing branch." These blessings uplift the classroom and spread your good wishes, permeating the spiritual environment of the classroom.
- Many teachers ask for a family photo that your child can bring along to have in the classroom. During the course of a day, that photo of you as a family can bring reassurance that you, the loving parent, are always there.
- Take a photo of your child or children on the first day of school. I have a friend who has done this every year and it is beautiful to see how her children grow and mature each year. These preserve very precious memories.
As the summer comes to a close, try to spend extra nurturing time with your child. Slow your parental pace down and take a walk together to explore the simple things of life. Pick blackberries, go for a bike ride, explore a new park, or go bird watching. Yet another way to create a fall transition is by going on one of those last summer harvest moon walks together.
August is a time for new summer transitions with your children. “Breathe out” the summer memories and breathe in the adventure of a new school year that is about to unfold.
"Breathing in, I dwell deeply in the present moment. Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment. Present moment/ wonderful moment." --
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh