Oh Summer, you came and went and here we are, already a few days into the first week of school (for most of us), wondering where the last several months went. There's nothing like the start of or return to school in the Fall to really hammer in that time is moving swiftly and our little ones are growing up right before our eyes, learning something new and blossoming into bigger, brighter, more confident versions of themselves every minute of every day. As much as we want them to have their independence (and as much as we need space), it's hard to not be able to be right there with them, documenting every second. Incorporating some special traditions or rituals that are unique to your family are a helpful way of navigating feelings of unease, overwhelm, or just pure excitement that tend to surround the first few weeks of returning to school. I hope the following list provides inspiration, but I also encourage you create your own rites of passage or celebrations--or maybe you already have, and this is just the reminder you needed to re-instate them!
Bake treats or do a craft project with your child to make gifts that they can share with their new classmates. While making the gifts, ask your child to reflect on what they value in their friendships, and how they feel about making new friends and reuniting with old ones. Are they feeling nervous? Excited? Allow space for your little one to express anxieties or hesitancies about new experiences while practicing an act of kindness and generosity.
In Russia and Khazakstan, flowers are commonplace on the first day of school. Russian students typically bring their teachers flowers on the first day of classes to celebrate the “Day of Knowledge", and are given a balloon in return. I love that this celebration of knowledge happens at the beginning of a school year rather than at the end, the way schools in America might celebrate the end of exams. By beckoning in the new year of learning with joy and festivities, it helps to build excitement around the idea of sharing knowledge and all that the school year has in store. In Khazakstan, children each bring one flower for their teacher, which together makes a bouquet--again, a beautiful symbol of coming together to learn and grow!
Begin a journal at the start of the school year, and invite your child to work on it with you. If you have multiple children, you could invest in a journal dedicated to each one, or you could collaborate all together as a family. Take a few minutes to put to paper what you wish for your little one this year--focusing on blessings and experiences rather than tangible, to-do list items. For instance, "I wish for compassion and strength for you this year!" or "I am excited for you to discover a new passion!" Then hand the pen over to them and let them write or draw what they are most looking forward to. Keeping a journal entry for each school year will result in an amazing keepsake for them (and you) to look back on in several years' time, but also may be something you want to open up regularly, to reflect on the intentions that both of you set for the current year.
Present your child with a hand-me-down or family treasure to bring with them on the first day of school. I think we can all remember a time when a parent or older sibling gave us something special of theirs to guide us through a trying time. If your child is feeling nervous about being away from you all day, a special trinket that belongs to someone else in the family might just do the trick to help ground them and squash any feelings of loneliness or isolation that might creep in on the first day (or long after). A necklace of yours or a clothing item from an older sibling will serve as a reminder of their family’s love and support as they undergo this exciting rite of passage.
Have a Not-Back-to-School Party! For children who are unschooled or homeschooled, August can be a bit of a confusing time emotionally, as they watch neighbors and friends go back to school shopping, get haircuts, and pack their new lunchboxes. Even though your child might LOVE not going to school in the long term, it’s easy to feel a little left behind amidst the back to school chaos of early Fall. So gather all of your homeschooling/unschooling peers together and have a “Not Back To School Day”, to celebrate all of the things your kids enjoy about not being in school. If you have a homeschool group, this is also a great time to set intentions for the term as a community. Will you focus on more volunteer work this year? Who will host the next field trip? There’s no time like Fall to get organized and get on board with the folks in your community!
Make a seasonal vision board. This practice will be especially helpful for older children, who may have fallen into the slow rhythms of Summer and are feeling a little bit apprehensive about returning to a rigorous school schedule. Collaging a vision board with your child is a great way to help them feel more in control about their upcoming return to the classroom. What do THEY want to accomplish this year? Which subjects are they most excited for? What projects do they want to do with their friends? Having a visual document to look back on will help remind them throughout the year that their education is in their hands, and that they can conquer anything they set out to do!
Go for a walk. Take advantage of that last bit of early morning light before the Fall equinox (September 23rd this year!), and try starting your morning with a walk to help ground and center your little one before their long day. It doesn't have to be a long walk, maybe it's even just a walk to the bus stop or carpool, but it provides an opportunity to start the day with mindfulness, balance, and connection--things that can easily and understandably get forgotten amidst the chaos of getting everyone out the door in time! Especially during the first week or two of school, when nerves and energy is running high, a peaceful morning walk can give your little one (and you) a much needed sense of certainty and stability, right at the beginning of their day. It can also serve to remind them that you're walking alongside them in this journey--that you have their back even when you're not attached at the hip. Space and time apart doesn't mean losing the connection that you've built throughout their younger years.
What traditions does your family honor this time of year? Do you have a young child who is just beginning school, or taking classes outside of the home for the first time? How are you navigating it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below--thank you for sharing!