Six Tips to Help Reduce Our Children’s Stress During the School Year

young mother praising daughter doing homework at desk

As our children are heading back to school, they may already appear a little more stressed.   Children that are in middle school and high school know that in the near future they will have hours of homework, papers and tests. If your children are in high school, they may already be dealing with college applications or SAT and ACT prep.  Many of our children will also be participating in sports, drama, science teams, newspaper and other extra curricular activity. The minute these demands fall upon our children they can become irritable, sleep less and you may notice things getting out of whack with family life at home. There is certainly a lot to explore regarding whether our children are being overworked and whether school homework policies should be examined. But what can we do for our children right now and during the rest of the school year to help them be less stressed and worried? The following are some helpful tips that won’t take all the work away, but will at least help our kids relax more, release some stress and stay focused and get their work done.

1. Give your child some Maybe Statements. Sometimes when our children get stressed it is because they feel stuck or things are not going their way. They don’t realize in the moment that life will always change again and their future is not doomed if some things at school are difficult or not working out the way they would like. Remind them that as bad as things may look or feel, there is always the possibility that Maybe what is happening will turn out to be good, Maybe things will get better, or Maybe they can accept what is happening and still be OK. Thoughts of Maybe will help your child to return to the present more peacefully and get their work done with less stress and worry. Tailor a variety of Maybe statements to your child’s situation: “Even though Math was difficult last year, Maybe this year things will improve”; “Maybe I will make some new friends this school year”; “Maybe some new ideas will come to me and I can finish my college applications”; or “Maybe everything is okay regardless of all my worries.” Help your children create a habit of keeping Maybe statements close at hand so they will be prepared when stress and worry arise.

2. Teach your child the practice of gratitude. Gratitude creates a larger perspective on life so that every little thing does not get us down. Remind your children of all the wonderful people in their life, all the things that they love to do, and all the aspects of their life that they appreciate. A gratitude practice in the morning and at night will help them tremendously. It is best not to teach them this practice when they are in the middle of studying or are really stressed. It is best to share this practice when things are calm. This way, you can help them create a larger perspective so they react less during difficult times.

3. Try to buy some good quality lavender and chamomile essential oil for your home to help ease your child’s stress.   Get a spray bottle at the drug store, fill it up with water and add six or seven drops to the spray bottle (more if you want the spray to be stronger). Spray the house and your child’s room before they get home.   Another good option is to boil water and pour it into several bowls. Then add four or five drops of the oil and place the bowl in your child’s room and around the house. If they do not like the smell, there are other oils that are good for calming anxiety, like bergamot or valerian. Everybody has their own favorite oil, so see which one your child responds to best and that the family likes to smell around the house.   If you have a child that is very allergic or sensitive, you may want to dilute the oil even more and spray very little around the house to make sure they are okay with the smell.

4. A nice cup of hot tea is always very soothing when children study. Try to give them one without caffeine.   I find chamomile or decaffeinated earl grey tea to work wonders on helping my children relax.

5. If you have the time, nothing relaxes children more than a foot massage when they are studying. I have seen my own children go from stress and panic while doing an assignment to being relaxed and focused just by a ten-minute foot massage.   There are plenty of “how to” videos on YouTube if you need some guidance, but just a simple massage of the entire foot does wonders.   It is also good to do when your child is just telling you a story from school about something that made them stressed or hurt their feelings. Massaging their foot when they are speaking helps them release some of the tense energy they were feeling all day and return to more emotional balance.

6.     Give them a hug. Sometimes there is nothing else to do but give your child a hug and let them feel your love. Even though you do not see a change on the outside, feeling love and support is a good foundation for any child to build resilience and keep them going throughout the school year.

And as parents, it is not easy to watch our children stressed and worried. These tips can help us, too. Even though the school year can be tough at times for our children, give yourself a hug and remember, MAYBE everything is still OK.


The Blessings of A Messy Room

Businesswoman and children's mess

While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.  Angela Schwindt

When school is out, many of us find our children hanging around the house more often. Without a strict schedule and a lot of homework, there is more time for them to relax, and make a MESS. For most of this summer, I felt my days were consumed with cleaning dishes, cleaning crumbs off the floor, finding wet towels everywhere and putting things away in each room to find it all out of place again by the end of the day. I was constantly asking the children to clean up after themselves; but unfortunately their talents seem to lie in making a mess.

A few weeks ago, I was telling my friend about this experience with my children and she said, “You should see my house; it is so clean! I would never let my kids get away with what your kids get away with. My kids clean their rooms, put their dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the floor. You need to be harsher with them and let them know their responsibilities and that you are in charge.” I thought to myself, she is right. My children need to do their chores and help out more around the house. There is no excuse for this situation. So, for one week I marched around the house, venting irritation about the mess, using a stern voice to make the kids clean up and an angry voice when they did not do it. Instead of cleaning up myself, I spent the entire week reprimanding them and letting them know I was in charge. However, this new mindset just resulted in more yelling and conflict than usual. They cleaned up more but it was so painful for me to feel so frustrated and to keep reminding them what needed to be done. There were more arguments and I felt exhausted, uptight and angry.

The next day, my younger daughter was at day camp and my older daughter was out with a friend. It was so quiet in the house and I missed them both. I looked down on the kitchen floor and I saw muffin crumbs from breakfast that morning. In that moment I smiled. I realized that this is the blessing of having two vibrant children in my house. As I cleaned up the mess, I did not feel angry or upset. Sure I would tell them that they left crumbs all over the floor and still ask them to clean up their messes, but right then my entire perspective shifted. I now see each crumb and each unmade bed as a reminder of how lucky I am to have them in my life. Looking at the crumbs as a blessing couches the frustration with warmth and allows me to make space in the situation. One day they will move away and my house will be very clean, but I will miss them dearly. Sure I keep asking them to help out, but the mess no longer makes me feel angry or uptight. Now a mess works as a reminder to me of the wonder of having these children in my life. Do I like cleaning up? Of course not, but kids are messy and why be miserable over it? I prefer to choose gratitude and joy.

I was out with friends for dinner the next night and my friend was complaining about how his daughter graduated college, moved back in the house and was making a mess. He told us his daughter is loud, doesn’t clean her room or help enough with the dishes. It was driving him crazy. I turned to him and said, “I try to see my children’s messes as a blessing” He replied, “Allison, you are out of your mind.” I responded, “I am happy right now and you are miserable. So which one of us is crazy?” He smiled and said, “MAYBE you have a point. I am not sure I can embrace the blessing of a messy room, but I will try.”

So the next time the floors are marked up because your children didn’t take off their shoes, or they spill grape juice all over the table, don’t make their bed or leave food in their room, try to take a deep breath and see the blessing behind the mess. Of course tell them to clean it up and teach them to help out more around the house, but when you see the blessing behind the mess you won’t feel so frustrated and relinquish your joy so easily. Your heart will stay open with gratitude for their presence in your life and you will keep a larger perspective of what is really important. It feels so much better to support them on their journey with more joy and love than to scream and react all the time about the messes they make.

I actually think my children might be cleaning up after themselves more these past few days or MAYBE it is just bothering me less. In any case, seeing it all as a blessing can be a key to less suffering and the path to fully enjoying each day with our children.

My Interview With Laurie Lawson Host Of The Cable Television Show The Coaching Game

Yesterday I was interviewed for cable television by Laurie Lawson host of The Coaching Game.  The show will air on November 10, 2015 at 8:30 on Time Warner Cable Channel 56 in Manhattan.  For those of you that will not be able to watch the show or need a little more Maybe today in your life, you can view the interview on Youtube.  I hope you enjoy it!

Do You Want More Respect and Recognition For Your Work?

young woman showing okay gesture, with copyspace

Years ago I was in a large baby store in Manhattan and I found myself standing near a very famous movie star. He was on the phone and very upset, saying that he was not getting the roles that he wanted in certain movies. I remember hearing him say, “Why can’t I get the respect. All I want is the respect. Why can’t they just recognize my work” My first thought was “Are you kidding me? You are a famous, well-recognized actor and you make so much money in every film you’re in!” But it didn’t matter what I thought. His suffering was coming from his belief that people were not appreciating his work. He was suffering like everyone else when we want to be recognized for what we do in the world. It doesn’t matter if you are the most famous movie star, a president of a large public company or a stay at home mother of two, we all suffer the same way when we want to be valued.

From experience, we know that this approval or respect we yearn for will come and go. Some days the world might let us know we are valued and recognize our work and the next day it won’t. Most of the time, the desire for appreciation and respect from others stems from a fear that things are not all right. We are afraid that we’re not who we should be or we’re not accomplishing enough with our lives. We believe the validation from others will make it all feel better. Yet the trap is that we can’t always get from others what we are looking for and must look within in order to find any semblance of stability and freedom.

So how do we alleviate our suffering and achieve this freedom? A great way to relieve some of our pain is with the mantra “Maybe everything is okay.” It helps us dissipate the fear that we have about our work not being valuable because we realize that Maybe it is. It helps us remember other possibilities are always arising even if we can’t see them in the moment. We see that we are not doomed if that one thing we believe we “need” to happen doesn’t. We begin to understand our need for approval is just a projection of our fear leading us away from our life’s path.

As we embrace the mantra that “Maybe everything is okay” we are also more kind and loving towards ourselves because we are more accepting of where we are in life. We can enjoy our work because we are not worrying what everyone around us will think or how they will judge us. We understand that things always change and we have no idea where a work project, new business venture or our future creations will lead. We realize that Maybe everything is exactly where it needs to be in the moment. Interestingly, when we embrace this mantra, we become most creative and we are more likely to have outward success. The letting go is often the opening of the path to achieve our goals.

So let Maybe be a bridge from fear to love and allow yourself to have the courage and confidence to continue the beautiful work that you do in the world.

Remember, Maybe everything is okay!