Incorporate mindful intentions during the back-to-school season to set your family up for success.
The start of a new academic year can be overwhelming for parents and children. Mindful intentions help with the transition and will lay a foundation for a successful school year at any age.
Intentions are different than goals. Setting an intention mindfully is simply connecting with a chosen course. Intentions have strength and are rooted in the heart with purpose that evoke feelings. Intentions are internal—for example, “My intention is to do what is best for my child.” Goals are external, they are something to attain and are tangible—for example, “My goal is for my child to be an honor student.” Intentions create conditions for your child to reach goals with more ease. Intentions are seeds that align the heart and mind.
Some Questions to Ask
- When Living with Intention
- How would I like to nurture my child?
- What will I let go of?
- What makes me proud?
- What makes me grateful?
- How do I find balance?
- What core values do I want to teach?
Intentions to Put to Practice
1. Be prepared—Intention: Stay calm and focused
This intention is to reduce anxiety and minimize the unknown. When we reduce anxiety, we have space to see, hear and feel more.
A couple of days before school starts, have your child choose their outfit and decide what they’re going to have for lunch. Write thoughtful notes and leave them in their lunch box throughout the year. Have play dates with classmates to minimize distractions on the first day. If it’s a new school, visit the school and learn the lay of the land. Talk through their class subjects and ask them to recall what they have already learned. This will minimize the anxiety level of the unknown.
2. Structure—Intention: Finding balance
This intention is to reduce behaviors and power struggles. Encourage responsibility, agree on an after-school weekday timetable. Ask your child every day what they learned, this will help your child to recall and retain what they have learned, plus they will feel that you’re interested in their school activities. Discuss what they might like to do as a hobby, whether it is dancing or playing a musical instrument, it will be valuable.
Electronics such as cell phones, computers or tablets cannot be banned completely, but having structure around usage helps when you need to get your child’s attention. It will become less of an argument when you tell them it’s time to turn it off. When a child knows what is expected from them, they are more likely to listen.
3. Making new friends—Intention: Connecting with others
This intention is to teach an important life skill to your child. Teaching your child how to make friends is a big part of the school year. Help them build confidence by role-playing. Learning how to be a good friend involves body language skills, basic friendship skills such as offering to help or share, as well as conversational skills.
These skills do not come easy to all children or adults. Kids need to learn the words to say to enter into a group of children already playing, to invite others to play with them, and to figure out how to settle problems that arise when they are playing with other children.
Steps like teaching children to say “hi” and smile when they meet another child, giving compliments and being kind seem obvious, but often children need guidance to know how to act friendly. Show your child how to join a group. They can ask questions like: “What are you playing?” “How do I get to join the game?” Remind them to smile when they ask. Parents are role models. This is the best way to show kids how to interact with others—like sharing and taking turns, talking and listening in a polite way, and showing empathy.
4. Wake-up time—Intention: Having grace and ease
This intention is to remove stress from the morning routine. Parents, you should wake up at least 15 minutes before your child does as you are likely to get things done quicker. Plan the breakfast menu the night before. Make sure everyone gets enough sleep. Playing upbeat music with a strong beat in the morning is a fun way to wake up.
Follow a morning routine. Create a chart that helps your child adjust and focus. For younger children, use pictures instead of words to represent each step. Stay with the intention of the routine. It will require discipline at first, but by sticking with the discipline, it will become a habit.
Intentionality Builds on the Positive
Set regular talk times with your children and choose your battles. With intention, we are less reactive and more proactive. Embrace the uniqueness of your child knowing that with intention, you will plant seeds that will sprout upwards.
Anthony Cupo is a trained mindfulness facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.