Summers represent a break in the usual routine for families, a time to do things differently – more flexibly. As you set aside regular schedules and routines, you may have had a special holiday or spent more time with family. Your children may have had an opportunity to decompress and sleep in, access more outdoor activities and camp days. They may have seen friends that weren’t as available during the school year.  While there is always some excitement associated with going back to school, families also feel a sense of apprehension, often associated with the re-emergence of structured routines (e.g., early wakeup calls and bedtimes, the stress of new expectations at school including homework, and extracurricular activities). Parents regularly speak with me about these concerns, as the return of structure contributes to conflicting interactions between themselves and their children. They are troubled with power struggles and loss of emotional control at a time when they want to motivate and inspire their children toward a fresh start. As children argue about and push back on new routines, parents find themselves having to make spontaneous decisions in the moment, which may or may not be effective.

Recognize What Went Well

Part of establishing an intentional relationspace is to prioritize noticing oneself as we engage with our children of all ages.  By taking notice of how we communicate with them, we become resourceful advocates, discovering how we can help and support our children with each of their unique needs. However, even in the best of times, every parent experiences challenging encounters with their children. In these moments, we may not always be at our best and can subsequently doubt our effectiveness. Yet we are all human and susceptible to poor choices during unsettling situations. Let’s remember not to blame ourselves or our children. Instead, we can look to what we can learn from the situation, and celebrate building upon what is working in our parenting practice. This personal recognition is especially important when trying new parenting skills, or as our children push back on practices that usually work.

Recognize Your Efforts

You deserve to recognize your efforts and identify successes even during challenges. When you do, you’ll find yourself better able to handle any presenting conflict. Give yourself permission to notice that while your children may not always respond positively to your parenting practice, and while it may not always be perfect, you are intentionally and consistently building upon strengths in communication and relationship. During this transitional period of back-to-school, the following are some key steps you can take following a conflict situation with your child:

  • Take a few moments to mindfully tune-in to yourself, to note what happened in the interaction with your child, and how you responded.
  • Practice self-forgiveness and forgiveness of your child, recognizing that things don’t always go as planned or intended.
  • Try not to judge yourself or to dissect the issues within your personal setback.
  • Instead, try to notice anything that you may have proactively accomplished during the challenging encounter.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate any of these small successes with yourself.
  • Try to ask yourself how your child benefited from, or noticed your small successes.
  • Ask yourself – “If I could have said or done something differently, what would that have been? What might that look like? How would this improve the outcome?
  • Ask yourself – How will I try to manage this situation differently next time?
  • Be patient, as it doesn’t take long for you and your children to settle into the new school year. 

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Check out our Podcast – A Call Across the Pond; Transforming Relationships at School, at Home and Beyond – with Tara Gretton and Vicky Essebag