The morning air is crisp. Pencils are sharpened. Folders and papers are smooth and organized. And just like new shoes have a little room to grow, so do our lives in this back-to-school season. It’s time for a fresh start, and it’s the perfect time to set some school-year resolutions!
Resolutions made in January often come from reflection on a previous calendar year, and for many, might come from a source of unhappiness or stress, coming off a hectic holiday season. Individuals often want to make more drastic changes (e.g. “I’m going to lose 20 pounds, so I’m never eating sweets again!”). Those individual/personal resolutions might be somewhat easier to implement, but since families are already in the routine of the school year (with all their individual moving parts and schedules), it can be more challenging to make changes as a family unit. The summer season likely slows us all down a bit, giving us the ability to think more clearly, forecast and dream up our ideals for how we might want our lives to run when school starts again. And that time is here again, now.
The idea of school year resolutions isn’t a new one. In her book Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin describes “September as the other January”, as she created her own “happiness project” that spanned only the months of school year. She stated, “September, for many people, marks a fresh start and a new beginning, so it’s good to think about changes to make with this clean slate.” To read more, go to gretchenrubin.com, or to hear more, listen to her Happier podcast, Episode 129 with September is the Other January in the the title, at gretchenrubin.com/podcasts.
A September 24, 2016 Wall Street Journal article by Anne Marie Chaker also speaks to school year resolutions in its title alone: September is the Real New Year: More than just back-to-school; people improve routines, consider career moves and join the gym.
And in 2015, Pearson and NBC teamed up to coordinate the School Year Resolution Program, which consisted of resolutions from thousands of parents, students, educators, grandparents, celebrities and public figures. Examples of such resolutions included
• “to help my children deal with their emotions”;
• “to get all my homework done before I watch YouTube, etc., and stop procrastinating so much.”
To read more examples and view video clips, click here!
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I am constantly thinking about the changes that are taking place in my clients’ schedules and lives and how I can best support them and their families during this transition to a new school year. Occupational therapists consider a person’s occupational profile, which consists of a “client’s history and experiences, patterns of daily living, interests, values and needs” to guide their practice (AOTA, 2014). Part of this profile includes analyzing performance patterns of engagement – routines, roles, habits and rituals – and how they change over time (like how they are changing now!), while also considering the environment, context and client/family’s goals.
Take this opportunity to think about your family’s patterns in daily life, how they are shifting, and where opportunities for change come into play. As a parent of two school-age children, thoughts ranging from establishing ease in morning and bedtime routines, to the amount and variety of afterschool and weekend activities, to the nights we can be home to have dinner as a family, etc. replay each day in my mind.
To set a resolution, think of an ideal or goal, and behind each a goal, think about the intention for that resolution to give further meaning to “why” you have set this goal. Consider individual roles, habits and rituals and how they influence each other.
Are your resolutions personal? Professional? Related to specific family members or your family as a whole?
Furthermore, are your resolutions measurable? e.g. Are you going to do this “new something” every day, or just on school/work days, or just on the days the kids have activities?
Two of my personal resolutions include:
• I will do some sort of fun, easy and helpful brain-based movement activity (such as a BrainGym activity) with my child(ren) before the school day at least 3 days a week.
• I will leave my phone in my purse when I arrive home until after all bags have been gone through and emptied, mail has been sorted and I have thoroughly checked in with everyone about their day. (intention- being present with my family, relationship building, organization and peace at home).
Some additional Pediatric Therapeutics therapists goals include:
“Mine – for myself and my kids is to have outfits picked out and lunch made the night before, for the next day.” The intention behind this resolution is “peaceful mornings and peace of mind- as well as a more restful sleep because it’s done.”
Another therapist said,
“I definitely think the beginning of the school year is a natural time for resolutions. My “school year” resolutions for this fall – 1.) healthy, delicious dinners on the table by 7:15 at least 4:7 days 2.) no screentime after 9:30, with bedtime by 10:30 (my new year’s resolution; I did well for keeping it up for several months, but it slid in the spring…thanks to the beginning of the school year, I’m consciously back on it).”
Whatever YOUR school year resolutions might be, we hope they bring you and your families joy, peace and the fresh-start you are looking for. Please share them in the comments! We are here to support you and help you achieve them
–Liz Duffy, OT