Taking time with transitions: Bringing mindfulness into the new school year


By Leah Persky, PhD & CFLE • Manager of Family Life Education & Addiction and Recovery Services

For many parents and caregivers, the past few weeks have been filled with the business of getting ready for another school year to begin. The excitement of school supplies, haircuts, finding out which teacher or classes you have, squeezing in the last bits of summer fun, and transitioning into the new season ahead always fills me with anticipation and hope for the coming year. There is so much excitement and emotion during this time of transition.

This year feels different to me. It is the third start of the school year of the COVID era; things are feeling much more normal for many, and yet there is an undercurrent of uncertainty and loss. For many others, life remains completely changed and the losses experienced during the past three years may still figure prominently into each day. The past years have brought many political, social and health-related challenges that also impact our daily life. As we work to keep our children and families safe this year, it is important to take some time to check in with ourselves, be mindful of our own needs and take some time to be present and reflect on the moment. 

Transitions with kids can be both exciting and hard. As a parent or caregiver, there is usually a lot going on and a lot to do when something is ending or starting. This can leave parents feeling stressed, anxious or out of balance. Kids often will feel these transitions deeply as well. They cannot necessarily verbalize it, but they may act out, regress or just not act like themselves. I felt that way myself as we came home from a family reunion in late August and began the rush of getting the kids ready to start school while also managing my own schedules and needs.  

Even though this is a busy time of year, transitions can offer an opportunity to check in and take stock. How are you feeling now? What do you notice around you? What do you need more/less of in your life? What might you be carrying with you? These are important questions to reflect upon as we enter into the first month of school and transition into the coming season.

I encourage you to schedule some time with yourself to just recognize and reflect upon what you are experiencing now, without judging what you notice. What are you feeling and what might this mean for your daily life and schedule? Taking even just five minutes to sit and think, to mindfully walk or journal is a powerful daily habit that can bring mindfulness into many other areas of your life. The positive impacts of mindfulness are well-documented and can be far-reaching – improved mood, decreased anxiety, better sleep, and possibly even the prevention of heart disease and cognitive decline.

Here is one of my favorite quotes about meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the field of secular mindfulness, who uses meditation as a tool to treat depression and pain disorders and reduce stress.

“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises
from paying attention
in a particular way, on purpose,
to the present moment,
with non-judgment.”

If you are interested to learn more about mindfulness and parenting, stay tuned – we will be holding a community education class on this topic on Nov. 1 and 8 at noon. More details will be coming soon. We hope you will be able to join us!