Victoria Beech has found that daily habits help keep God at the heart of her day
Although some have already gone back, for many this week is a new week in a new class or new school. After the long summer holidays, it’s understandable that this will be viewed by many with trepidation, especially for those who find transitions hard work.
I have one of these in my family, and so I know it can be really difficult. I wish I could give you three tips to make time fast forward to a time when everything is settled. However, here are some things we’ve found help us in times of change.
1 Be ready
There’s nothing worse than being caught off guard for handling transition badly. One of the most helpful things is to spot that these times are hard for you and your child. Remember that this isn’t because you are a bad parent and your child isn’t a bad child, you just struggle with transition. Acknowledging the difficult is the first step to working out how you can make it smoother.
And because I’m assuming you’re the parent, let’s start with us – let’s get ourselves as much as possible into a place where we’re emotionally and spiritually available to help our children navigate these choppy days. This might be having an honest phone call with your Mum or a good friend, a walk in nature, an early morning swim/run, a yoga class or a longer quiet time. Whatever helps you to regulate yourself and be ready.
Being ready also involves getting all the physical things ready in advance so you can focus on the emotional things which can’t be done ahead of time. A friend once told me this was how she prepare for days she thought her children might struggle. She didn’t want to be making lunch or organising clothes and shoes in the morning when she knew she needed time to go slow with her children, so she did it all the night before. I’m not great at this – maybe you are – but it’s good advice for life, and whenever I do it, my Future Self is very happy.
2 Keep rhythms
Whether your family is super organised with charts all over the fridge or more sporadic like us, every family has its rhythms, things which usually happen every day, week, month and year. It’s these things which help us feel grounded and safe, especially when other things are changing.
Make sure you identify a few things which are going to be the same as you go back to school, maybe what you have for breakfast and where you eat it. For me, even using the same mug every day helps me! I find it’s particularly helpful to have really small but significant spiritual rhythms to include God in our day, preferable something in the morning and something in the evening.
I love using a Thanks Chart, filling in three things each day which I’m thankful for, three ways I’ve seen God’s goodness in the last 24 hours. It’s really quick and simple but it helps refocus my mind at the start of each day. (You can download a lovely leaf pattern Thanks Chart I made here Leaves Thanks Chart | GodVenture.co.uk
Maybe you can have a 30 seconds or a minute silence in the car, or perhaps say hello to the same plants as you walk to school. Or maybe eat the same snack when you get home in the afternoon. If you drive to school, maybe have fun saying car prayers – looking out for cars which look like the car of someone you know and asking God to be with that person – or maybe it’s all about the chat and hot chocolate when you get back from school.
Whatever you choose, keep it simple and fun, allowing it to be a tool to help you connect together and with God, not your master or something to make you feel guilty when you don’t do it.
This might seem like an odd one, but I find physical symbols of people’s love and of God’s presence with me are powerful. Currently, we have a red elastic band around the tap in our loo, which comes from the story of Hagar where she meets God at a spring. I’ve made a mini-mag with activities to explore it, and it comes with an elastic band to put around your tap so every time you go to your ‘spring’, you can remember God is with you. I’m finding it a really helpful way to re-connect with God.
You might also want to think about a portable memory jogger, like short, one sentence love notes in your children’s lunch boxes, or a little pebble or shell or felt heart which you give them as a sign of your love and God’s presence which they can keep in their pocket. I find a smooth pebble from the beach works well for this, so if you’ve collected any, you could use one for this.
We also have a symbol on our door frame like Jewish families do, which we touch each time we come in or go out. It’s a way of embodying these verses:
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know what I’m thinking even though you are far away.
3 You know when I go out to work and when I come back home.
You know exactly how I live. Psalm 139:2,3
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:7
There, three things. We could also talk about reducing your schedule to only essential things (move that annual opticians appointment to next month!), avoiding avoidable extra engagements, getting to bed on time, eating well and so on, but I’ll leave you with a recommendation of an excellent book which if you’ve not read it, you should. It’s Help Your Child Deal With Stress – and Thrive by Stuart Shanker You can read more from Stuart Shanker about self-regulation here: Self-Reg 101 - Self-Reg