SALT LAKE CITY — Make a few quick changes to routine, purpose and appreciation to make the summer-to-fall transition smoother and happier.
De-stress one system
Rather than overhaul your home before school starts (was that even a goal?) organize fall one system at a time. Consider the one that bothers you most — kids’ lunches, entry way coming and going, school papers — and tackle that one first. For example, school papers can be contained in folders, magazine holders, trays, clipboards, etc.
Use the system that works best for you. I’ve used all of them and found a fit combining three: kids put to-do homework in a folder, graded homework in a tray and long-term project information in their clipboard. This may seem complex, but for whatever reason it works!
Find your focus
If you have children heading back to school, they’re going to experience mental and emotional growth (we hope). Happily, you get to, too. Consider what helps you experience “joyful contribution,” meaning, something small or big that helps you feel creative, fulfilled or joyful.
For example, on a small level of this a few years ago, my daughters and I loved to make flower cookies: chocolate chip cookie dough pressed in a flower mold, then baked with a lollipop stick and tied with a bow. We would take these to friends and neighbors, and it absolutely brought us joy (and licking the bowl was joyful too …).
As you decide on something joyful, perhaps a medium-level adventure would include going back to school too, like a friend of mine. She is a mom doing an online program so that with little children at home, it’s more doable for her schedule. In this way, she can continue progressing toward her ultimate educational goal of receiving a college degree.
If it resonates, something on a larger scale might be a purposeful project. A few years ago, a friend of mine noticed that in the neighborhood the kids played on a solitary large rock. While fine, she wanted them to have something more interesting and that allowed more children to gather and play. She partnered with another friend, involved the community, garnered donations, and after several months had created a beautiful and functional play area. Later she shared that on a city celebration day, she looked over at the children all playing happily on the play area and felt a surge of joy.
Notch up marital appreciation
In his excellent book "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," Dr. John Gottman shares a simple but powerful appreciation exercise. Using a list of character traits (he has a list of about 70, but you can create your own) have each spouse choose three positive traits of the other spouse. Jot down experiences where those traits were observed. Each spouse then takes a turn sharing a trait of the other spouse and sharing the related experience. This takes perhaps five to 10 minutes tops, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
If you like, expand that exercise to your family. We did this a few nights ago, with each child drawing a sibling’s name and then sharing three great qualities about that sibling, and one related experience. Despite the teenage boys’ obvious I’d-rather-get-my-wisdom-teeth-pulled response, they actually shared positive comments to the other person’s just as obvious delight.
Enjoy this back-to-school time by “attending” to three different but joy-giving areas.