The school holidays are drawing to a close and it's time to get organised for the new school and work year ahead. Not feeling prepared? Don't worry, you're far from alone.
'Holidays disrupt routines for parents as well as children. To have the best start possible to the New Year, it's time to get ready both physically and mentally and to get the entire family's routine back on track," advises positive psychology coach Kate Wilkie from Flourishing Mothers, a coaching service to help mothers thrive and live flourishing lives by building resilience to stress and boosting wellbeing.
Kate recommends thinking about resetting the entire family's eating and sleeping times at least a few days before school and work start and it's great to get your kids involved in the planning so that they understand what you're trying to achieve.
During the holidays it's fantastic to savour all the fun experiences you're having but as the holidays come to an end you might need to be more mindful of normal routine. Helping your kids to get back into the habit of earlier bedtime and less screen time could be a useful goal, and set you all up for less stress and happier mornings in the new school year, she suggests.
Kate also recommends sitting down with your children early on in the New Year to put together a to-do list, which might include shopping for school uniforms and stationery.
'Sit down with the family wall-chart or diary and schedule in dates for shopping. Make it fun with special date stamps such as Frixion Stamps which feature mini designs depicting different activities, so they work well for children who are still learning to read and write, plus they are erasable so you can remove them if dates change," she says.
As a bonus, handwriting your -to do' list rather than typing it out on a smart phone or tablet can help you remember it. Research shows that traditional note-taking using pen and paper results in higher memory recall and learning compared to when using a keyboard. A survey conducted by Pilot Pen supports this.
'We surveyed 1200 Australians and found that 90 per cent prefer to use a pen and paper to make -to do' lists and shopping lists, rather than a tablet or smart phone. Over 80 per cent said it was much easier to remember something if they had hand-written it," says Mr John Johnston, marketing manager, Pilot Pen Australia.
Holidays are meant for relaxing but if you leave it to the last minute to get organised for work and school, Kate warns you can end up stressed and frazzled, ruining the benefits from your time off.
'It may be the last thing you want, but being proactive and organised will make you enjoy the benefits of the summer holidays much longer," says Kate.
Pilot Pen has a wide range of pens, highlighters and stamps to help you get organised this New Year. Choose from across the range to make up your perfect New Year stationery kit:
Frixion Ball - an erasable gel ink pen in ten colours – great for notes, handwriting, studying and general use, available in fine and extra fine. RRP $3.25
Frixion Clicker - a retractable erasable pen in a choice of seven colours, available in fine and extra fine. Click the clip of the pen to retract. RRP $3.99
Frixion Point - an erasable needlepoint pen for ultra-fine writing - perfect for practising handwriting and craft. RRP $3.50
Frixion Light - a fantastic erasable highlighter in a choice of ten colours – perfect for studying. Highlight textbooks and notes, then rub it out without a trace. RRP $2.49
Frixion Colors - erasable felt tip markers in a choice of ten fun colours. Colour, draw, craft and create and if you make a mistake, rub it out and start again. RRP $2.49
Frixion 3 in 1 - this clever pen features three erasable ink colours (black, blue and red) in one sleek barrel and is available in a choice of pink, green or blue barrel colours. RRP $9.95. Also available in a Metal Barrel, RRP $24.50 and Wood Barrel, RRP $31.45
Frixion Stamp - with 24 different motifs to choose from, these cute rubber stamps are a fun way to decorate your drawings, notes, or diary. RRP $2.99
Frixion LX - with a premium metal barrel, Frixion LX is where luxury and effortless writing meet. It is the ultimate retractable, erasable pen and a stylish statement on its own. Available in gold, silver, blue and green. RRP $31.45
Pilot Acroball - this ballpoint pen combines style with smooth, advanced ink for an effortless writing performance. The unique rubber tyre grip enables you to grip the barrel tightly, enhancing your writing technique. Available in seven colours. RRP $4.88
Pilot G-2 - these retractable gel pens, available in six colours, contain extra smooth, vivid gel ink which is great to write with. It has a rubberised grip, so your hand won't tire when you write for long periods. Available in fine and extra fine. RRP $4.48
Pilot Fineliner - the original and best water based marker. This pen, which is available in five colours, is perfect for writing or drawing precise lines. RRP $2.65
The Pilot Pen range is available in all major retailers, newsagents and stationery suppliers nationally.
Kate Wilkie is a positive psychology coach at Flourishing Mothers. For more information, visit www.flourishingmothers.com.au.
Question: How do the school holidays disrupt children?
Kate Wilkie: During the school holidays kids usually end up with changes to their routines. Regular weekly extra-curricular activities take a break and we tend to be more relaxed about bedtimes, sleepovers, meal times and often even what the kids are eating, especially over the summer. Whilst this is fun and many kids absolutely adore the more relaxed holiday rules about screen time, treats and bedtime, it can also add up to tired grumpy kids who actually miss knowing what to expect each day.
Also, when parents need to work during the school holidays we try to make sure our kids are having the time of their lives with a packed schedule of holiday activities, visits to friends and family or perhaps a bit of independence being allowed to stay home on their own for a bit of the day as they get older. Again in theory fun but potentially exhausting and disrupting for our kids
Question: How can parents tell if children are nervous about going back to school?
Kate Wilkie: I think that some kids will tell us straight out but that quite often it's more subtle. We might notice a reluctance to discuss school and even school friends, or lack of interest in organising school equipment. My daughters adore new stationery so if they're ever not keen to go and pick out new pens I'd be wondering what's going on and asking some gentle questions.
We might also notice our kids being a bit withdrawn or grumpy and not enjoying the holiday activities as much as you would expect.
Question: If a parent believes their child is nervous how can they mentally and physically prepare them?
Kate Wilkie: First of all you need to know if they are nervous and understand the issues as best you can. Create safe opportunities to let them express how they're feeling. It might take several chats but the important thing is to work out the story – what's going on in your child's head – what's the story they're telling themselves. Once you know the facts you can help them prepare to manage their concerns. This could include:
Practising how to introduce yourself to new people and start making friends
Making sure your child has necessary school equipment and feels happy with it
Having a trial walk/drive to school to work out timing you'll need and to give your child an idea of how it will feel
Having a walk around the school to re-familiarise yourself with everything and help your child remember what they have liked about school in the past – this might also be a way of helping parents to understand further what your child is concerned about. (Years ago my daughter was quite anxious about the climbing frame at school. We practised climbing safely to help her build her skills.)
Discussing what the school routine will be and perhaps even writing down all the details of how the school week will roll out could be useful
Getting into the school routine during the last week of the holidays – regular bedtime and waking time for example
Question: What advice do you have for parents who hope to build a resilience to stress?
Kate Wilkie: I think the most important thing is to develop an understanding of who your child is, to understand how they react to stress and to recognise and appreciate their character strengths. When we know what our child's strengths are we can help them to proactively use them to handle challenges and tough times.
It's helpful to point out to your child when she is using her strengths, notice the bravey/the kindness/the love of learning etc because then we can remind her of those times when she's feeling less resilient. Eg. Darling I know you're really worried about being separated from your friends at school this year but do you remember how you made new friends at tennis camp this summer. You can use your sense of humour to get to know people and show them how kind you are.
A fantastic new book about Strengths based parenting is The Strengths Switch by Dr Lea Waters – I'd highly recommend it if you're interested to read more.
Question: How can we guarantee happy school mornings in 2018?
Kate Wilkie: Not sure we can guarantee happy school mornings but here are a few ideas:
Plan the timing and let your kids know the night before what needs to happen. Eg. some days in our household we need to leave earlier. I remind everyone the night before and encourage as much prep as possible – homework packed, lunches agreed on and as organised as possible, uniform ready.
On mornings when we have more time we can really savour the more relaxed pace, turn on some music, read a book for a while and enjoy a few minutes together.
Recognise your child's individual needs – one of my daughters loves to wake up slowly. If we start waking her up 10mins before she needs to be up and have time to chat to her a bit as she wakes up it avoids a lot of grumpiness.
Look at your own routine – if you feel calm and organised that good vibe will resonate through the house
Question: What are the advantages of to-do and shopping lists?
Kate Wilkie: I love a to-do list and a shopping list! For me it helps me plan how to achieve my goals and in the case of a shopping list, avoids the annoyance of arriving home without a few vital items.
I think that both sorts of lists can improve our focus on what's important. When we need to be conscious of budget, planning out our shopping list can help us avoid impulse purchases that we might then regret.
In the case of a to-do list, I think it can also help to build motivation to get the task done. As you write down the task take a moment to imagine it done – how will you feel, what will it mean in the overall picture of your goals? Who will be made happy when the task is done?
Question: How can we prepare our children for going back-to-school?
Kate Wilkie: Encourage your child's natural strengths and talents - If you have a curious child, get them excited by telling them about all the things they will be learning this year. If you have a creative child, they might want to help cover their text books with pretty paper or write their name on their pencil case or lunch box.
Give them responsibility - Back to school is a great opportunity to give your kids some responsibility. If you let them do some things on their own they will feel more competent and confident which is great for their wellbeing. So have them choose their own stationery and encourage them to pack their own backpack. Helping our kids become more independent is also great for the wellbeing of Mums!
Teach them the power of being organised - We all know how it feels running around the house the morning of first day of school, making lunch and packing. Avoid that frazzled feeling and teach your children the power of organisation by getting everything ready the night before. Together, make the lunch box, pack the backpack and make sure the school uniform is ironed and good to go for a relaxed start to the morning.
Plan Ahead - Planning together with your child will teach them that being proactive and organised is the best way to prepare for anything in life, and it gives them a sense of ownership and control.
Create a gratitude habit - Talking to your kids about what went well during the day is a great way to create and share positive emotions. Start with paying attention to the positive and it can help to put problems into perspective and discuss challenges more calmly.
Talk about concerns - Just as with adults, if your child's fears go unexpressed, the fears can feed upon themselves and increase anxiety, so encourage your children to voice any worries they may have before school starts. Give your child the opportunity to talk about their fears and concerns about the new school year, and work with them to come up with solutions together.
Question: What advice do you have for those returning to work in 2018 after maternity leave?
Kate Wilkie: Work out your top values – what's most important to you as you go back to work. Having a clear picture of your work and personal values will allow you to prioritise things.
Identify your top personal strengths, what you do best – it's often hard work to balance family and work and we do best when we play to our strengths.
Get organised and plan – work out all the nitty gritty of how you're going to balance family and work and get any support you're going to need organised well ahead of time.
Check your mindset – Are you heading back to work excited about the possibilities of the year ahead? Looking to the future and believing that you can learn, develop new skills and change will help you to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way this year.
Don't forget about your personal wellbeing – try to schedule healthy habits into your weeks
Be kind to yourself - If possible try to ease your way back in and give yourself time to get back into your working rhythm.
Interview by Brooke Hunter