Back to School

Well, it has been some time since my last blog post! Wow! My humblest of apologies for not being more on top of this. I am hoping to be more diligent moving forward! I may even venture into vlogging - doing video blogs at some point soon. Much has happened since my last blog entry. I did get into Adler School of Psychology, but had to turn it down as the timing was off. Why was the timing off?- well, I was finally pregnant!!! After years (and years) of trying and expensive interventions, we were finally blessed with a gorgeous healthy smart little baby boy!! We are so grateful that God has granted us this precious gift. He has been a joy to nurture, and I enjoyed having a year off to spend with him. During my maternity leave, I also took a Fundamentals of Supervision course. This 30-hour course is required by AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy) and CRPO (College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario) in order to provide qualified supervision hours to other practitioners. Even though I have already been providing supervision services for years, I am grateful for the opportunity to take this course as the hours would now count towards being an Approved Supervisor with AAMFT. Not only am I returning back to my private practice now that my maternity leave is over, but I am also going back to school. What am I taking? Surprisingly not psychology (although that may still happen at some point in the future). I will actually be going to Tyndale for my Master of Divinity (MDiv). What is that?? Well, it's a combination of studies in Theology and in Counselling. So, I will be able to help clients not only from a secular perspective but also from a biblical perspective. It doesn't necessarily mean that I would only be offering exclusively Christian Counselling- it just means that in addition to secular/ regular/ traditional counselling, I would be able to help from whatever spiritual faith my clients align with, on a deeper level. BackToSchool Spirituality was always included as one of the wellness areas in my Relational Wellness Wheel (see home page), as that is part of the bigger picture of general wellness. Whether Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, or even Atheist, that forms your values and belief system, which then impact upon your thoughts and behaviours. I believe it is important to work with clients on whatever level they are at spiritually, as that facilitates change and well-being, and helps them to achieve their personal goals. So, we are now in September! School is back in for the little ones and for me too!! Here are some tips for parents to manage the big return to school for your kids! 1/ Have a positive attitude! If you're nervous, the kids would be nervous. If you're excited, the kids would be excited. And it's normal to have a bit of both! Nervous for a new teacher, maybe a new school, new challenges in school work, making new friends. Anything new is naturally nerve-wracking. But if you have an attitude of genuine excitement for the new challenge and new adventure, then this will be contagious. Or it would at least help to ameliorate some of the anxieties. Often times kids are nervous for the academic stuff but excited to see their friends again. If it is a new school, they are often more nervous about making new friends than the academic piece. This is all normal, and good to just talk about to help ease any anxieties. Offer some much needed assurances and help them get settled along the way. 2/ Be prepared - practically, organizationally and academically. Yes, that means all the practical "stuff" that the Staples ads say you need. Writing paper, printer ink, calculators, protractors, pencils, erasers, fun highlighters, running shoes, white socks, etc (etc, etc!). It's nice to get them involved in choosing new items, as it helps get them excited for the new school year too. Also if they are new to riding the school bus, maybe practice riding a city bus together first so that they get an idea of what to expect. Being prepared also means being ready organizationally. Have things in place so that you're not scrambling during the school year. Before and after school care back up plans, or plans for who would pick the child(ren) up from school if they are sick, for example. And back-ups for the back-ups. Also consider having a family calendar on the fridge so everyone can see what is happening when. For older kids, this could be a shared google calendar. Also have some kind of system in place for tracking homework and assignments is helpful. Being prepared academically is also amazing. This means getting back into school mode by reading a book to prepare for one of their more challenging classes or learning something new before school starts. This gets their brains back into the game of learning mode. We are not in fun play summer mode anymore! (boo!) Better still is to never stop learning- through the summer it's great to balance having fun with also having some learning time too. 3/ Get involved. See the school, visit the classroom, meet the teacher, attend parent-teacher interviews, meet the new friends, arrange play dates. Get involved in school trips, parent associations, volunteer in the classroom, or fundraising if you are able to. Make sure there is open, clear and regular contact/ communication with the teacher(s), whether it be through a communication book, email, phone or in person. Also get the children involved- get them excited for joining different recreational/ extracurricular activities or clubs in/out of school. Just remember not to over-schedule things, as they still need time for school work and down-time and just time with friends and family. 4/ Have set and clear routines. Kids thrive on structure and regular routines. It gives them a sense of security and predictability. Morning routine, after school routine and chore charts are helpful. that way expectations are clear for everyone. To make the morning routine of getting ready more enjoyable and hassle-free, you can have tools such as a checklist in the bathroom or bedroom of what needs to be done (brush teeth, wash face, get dressed, eat healthy breakfast, pick up backpack and lunch bag, etc). You can also make it fun by playing some sing-along high energy music to get everyone motivated. For after school, have a set routine in place - for example, put shoes/coat away, unpack backpack/ lunch bag, snack, do homework at kitchen island while you cook dinner, review homework with you, eat dinner together, clear dishes/ load dishwasher, have one hour of screen time/ free time, pack lunch for next day and put out next day's clothes, have school bag ready to go for next day with anything signed that needs signing, get ready for bed, in bed by 8:30pm, etc. Get the routines in place at least a few days before school actually starts, so that they know what to expect and they can get into the rhythm of it. 5/ Be mindful. Schedule in breaks to refresh and have self-care. Stephen Covey calls this "sharpening the saw". In order to work hard and be effective, you need to take a break to sharpen your saw. Otherwise you and the kids will just be sawing away with a dull blade and not seeing any productive outcomes. Their brains need rest to be sharp and be at their top performance. You need a break too. Spend time together as a family, and have some time to yourself too. Quality time together is important for optimal relational functioning. Have fun together and enjoy time alone too. Keeping that fine balance between we and me is critical. Sometimes if you have to choose between dusting and going to the park together - choose the park!! I hope you found these helpful, please let me know if you have any other tips that you find useful. Best of luck with the new school year!!! Melissa