It’s 1976. I’m in fifth grade and standing by our front door with my red plaid backpack. My eyes scanning, I watch my four younger brothers dart from room to room. My stomach is in knots. It’s 7:45 a.m. We should have left fifteen minutes ago. Lunches are half-made, my brothers are shooting slingshots and my mom—never a morning person—is admonishing my dad, our morning chauffeur, about forgetting to schedule a home repair. Our orange Volkswagen van pulls up late to the Montessori school and my siblings and I tumble out, rattled. We scatter to our classrooms. I look back for a minute and see my physician dad hunched over the wheel eating Grape-Nuts out of a measuring cup before starting the car again. His jaw is clenched; his brow is knit with stress. I wish now, I could go back and hug him.
Growing up I remember my family’s morning routine being a three-ring circus. Perhaps this is unavoidable when you’re from a big family (I’m the oldest of seven), but after I became a parent, I wanted to do it differently.
When my now college student was school-aged, I liked to begin every new school year by asking, “What things can we do to support our family in experiencing less stress and more flow in the coming school year?” Transitions can be stressful and family life is messy, but just taking a bit of time to reflect on your intention for this fresh start can make a big difference.
Here are seven things my family found to be helpful in setting the course for a more flowing fall:
- Pause: Ask your family what worked and what didn’t last school year. My husband and I have been discussing the root causes for some of the family stress we experienced last fall. We identified three patterns that we’re addressing so we don’t repeat them, and we’re soliciting ideas from our family. Ahhhh, I feel better already!
- Create a vision: What’s your intention for the fall? How do you want to experience school mornings and evenings? What words come to mind? Does anyone in your family have special needs this fall (a career transition, health challenge or learning difference) that require extra attention? You may even like to come up with a theme for the year.
- Don’t over-schedule yourself or your kids. When we do less, we experience more joy, freedom and connection with our loved ones. Learning to say no is one of the most helpful skills you can master. We all crave unscheduled time.
- Create structure so you can flow. I know many of us love and value spontaneity (me too), but a little planning can help create a greater sense of ease when everyone knows what to expect. Maybe Monday is Funday (i.e., dessert night or Scrabble after dinner), Sunday nights are for planning out the week’s driving/activity schedule, or a bulletin board in your kitchen posts the month’s calendar and includes everyone’s upcoming activities. Plan ahead so you can create expanses of unscheduled time.
- Get the support you need. Anticipate and plan for what type of personal, family and professional support you and your kids may need this fall (parenting support group, coach/therapist, meal or childcare support, carpooling help). Reach out and ask for help – support makes all the difference in how you experience the journey.
- Make self-care a priority. Physical/mental/emotional/spiritual renewal are essential to your happiness and well-being. What most nourishes your family (camping trips, family game nights, weekend getaways, unscheduled Sundays, walks in your favorite woods)? Schedule these respites now and make them a priority.
- Communicate the plan. Whether you have a toddler or a teen, kids like to know that “we’re all in this together” and their voice matters. Take time to solicit their input (What do you want for breakfast?), ask them to help engage in problem solving (What are your ideas to promote a better sleep routine?) and then write down some of your collective decisions/guidelines so you’re all on the same page. This can create feelings of camaraderie and cohesiveness within the family.
Even if you just adopted one of these strategies, it could make a huge difference in how you experience the launch of the school year. Change can be challenging for many. Be easy on yourself and remember, people first, things second. Sometimes we’re hardest on those that we love the most.
CHALLENGE: Every August, I spend a few minutes with my calendar scheduling in downtime over the next four months. Whether it’s a one-day or weekend solo retreat, or a nature respite with my family, having a getaway on the books helps me breathe just a little easier as I move into autumn. Take some time this week to pause and explore some of these ideas. Find more tips for how to bring peace/harmony into your everyday life from my latest life balance book, Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life.
FOUR NEW SELF-RENEWAL EVENTS/RESOURCES ~ JOIN ME!
- **SOLD OUT: JOIN THE WAITING LIST.** September 15-17th ~ Sing, Dance, Pray: Romancing the Beloved at the Retreat Center at Lake Logan (45 min. from Asheville, NC airport). Located on sacred land in the oldest mountain range in the world. Limited to 25 women. Email info at reneetrudeau dot com to be on our waiting list. Learn more.
- October 13-15th ~ Awakening Your Wild Soul: A Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (Berkshire Mountains, MA). Packages start at just $635. This is our most popular retreat of the year (gorgeous leaf color; Kripalu pictured above!). Learn more/register. Can’t make it? Join me at Kripalu Jan. 19-21 for Sing, Dance, Pray: Romancing the Beloved women’s self-renewal retreat.
- Wild Souls Nature Adventures (based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC): authentic movement classes, community song circles, full moon hikes, meditation workshops, women’s circles & more. New offerings are listed each week; have me design a custom experience for your team/friends. Join us Sunday, August 27th for a *special new beginnings* Wild Souls Authentic Movement class near Asheville, NC. Learn more.
- Download your self-guided retreat today ~ Ready to prioritize your self-care, relax your body and enjoy empowering mentoring from Renee 24/7 from the comfort of your home, car or office? Our highly popular self-paced online retreats are only $59. Download & enjoy today. Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by mindfulness coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, Renee has been facilitating high-impact, interactive workshops for Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits/conferences and organizations/teams worldwide for 25 years. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fast Company, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, AARP, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 450 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups/retreats based on her pioneering self-care curriculum. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. She and her husband live in Western North Carolina and Austin, Texas; her latest venture is Wild Souls Nature Adventures. More on Renee here.