So I was talking to a buddy the other day about the start of a new school year. He said he almost had to pull a Venkman (“whacked out on about 300 ccs of Thorazine”) on his oldest son, who that day started his first day of middle school. The dude said his son was so nervous, the little dude was about to have a breakdown. And he wasn’t alone. As is probably normal during the first couple of weeks of school, the school bus picking up Speed Racer and the rest of his elementary school pals was late. Exceedingly late. Almost an hour late. For the first two days.
On the second late day, one little dudette started freaking out that she was going to be late. We explained that because the bus was late, she wouldn’t get a tardy. She didn’t care about that. She was worried about missing school and getting behind. (Where’s that work ethic when they get to high school?)
I understand. Really.
Starting middle school or high school can make you more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of psychotic cleaver wielders taking a break from reality and suffering from delusions of persecution from furry snakes. So, yeah, very nervous.
However, there is help for little dudes and dudettes of all ages.
“Making a transition, whether it’s to a new school, a new teacher or a new grade, signals change,” said Dr. Michelle Bailey, a pediatrician at Duke Integrative Medicine, in a news release from the university. “When adults are stressed, they often turn to smoking or alcohol or food to pacify emotions. We need to teach kids how to handle stress in a healthy way.”
Bailey said kids should try to practice mindfulness, which encourages little dudes to live in the moment and not to stress about things that are going to happen in the future.
The following exercises can help young practitioners achieve a level of mindfulness:
- Mindful breathing: Ask the child to take time in the morning and evening to pay attention to his or her breathing for 20 inhales and exhales. Steady breathing has a calming effect on the body.
- Mindful walking: After dinner, take a walk and pay attention to all the sights, sounds and colors. Encourage the child to use this technique on the playground and at school.
- Mindful listening: At the dinner table, ring a bell or play a note on a musical instrument to capture the family’s attention, then give each person a turn to speak about their day while the rest of the family gives their full attention, to encourage active listening.
Sure, this sounds a little new agey, but I think it might be of some help. If only to get the little dude to slow down just a bit and remind him that life is not all about the stress.