Tag Archives: back-to-school

Take Ten. Really, It’s Okay!

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“O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6 NRS)

One of the greatest gifts of back-to-school is that parents have just a bit more time for themselves.  Gone are the long days of summer, which may be pretty empty for families with special needs.  All of that time and creative energy put into filling a child’s day can leave Mom and Dad with little time for themselves.

Yes, we are all still busy this time of year, but everyone can find ten minutes a day for a bit of self-care.  But can ten minutes really make any difference?

Yes!

Ten minutes a day in meditation can improve sleep, increase willpower and reduce anxiety according to health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal of Stanford University.

Ten minutes a day of exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and reduces stress, per Dr. Timothy Church, director of the Laboratory of Preventative Research.

Ten minutes a day invested in talking with your spouse improves satisfaction with your relationship per American Psychological Association.

Clutter driving you crazy? Setting aside just ten minutes for some quick organization can go a long way in reducing perceived chaos, which in turn can improve mood, sleep and health, per Darby E. Saxbe and Rena Repetti in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Ten minutes engaged in a favorite hobby relieves stress and nurtures creativity, with the added benefit of reduced blood pressure and lower levels of depression, per a study by National Center for Biotechnology Information. Plus another study shows it helps improve problem solving, a skill we all need when dealing with challenges.

What is the power of ten minutes? How about a better marriage, better sleep, less stress, better organization, and improved mental and physical health.

Be intentional and find ten minutes for yourself.  I’d love to hear back what you did and how it helped in the comments.

Restoring God, thank you for the gift of renewal. Even as we care for others, remind us to care for ourselves.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com via Pexels

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Be Still? During Back to School?

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“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NRS)

Be still.  Familiar words, yes, but oh so difficult to follow.  In our multi-tasking world, being still is challenging enough for grown-ups, let alone children. Stillness may be all but impossible for children on various spectrums. Be still, you say?  Ha!

Seeing my child off for his first day of school, and the many that follow, being still is the last thing on my mind. There is much to do while he is away.  Plus I have all that worrying to do about him making friends, remembering homework, following rules. If I am going to be still it has to be in a very limited window of time.

Be still and know that I am God.

Besides, do I really need to be still in order to know that God is God? I mean, God is still God no matter how hectic things are for me, right? Isn’t it enough to pause and recognize the glory and wonder that is God and then go back to the hectic and the worry?

Maybe I ought to take just a second to read the beginning of the Psalm. Where does the story begin that later ends with being still and knowing that God is God?

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NRS)

Trouble, you say? We know a thing or two about that. Refuge and strength? Sign me up! But how am I to be still? It feels like I need to be DOING something, anything.

Hebrew is an interesting language.  One word can mean so many things. That familiar command to be still may better translate as “let go,” “slacken” or “abandon.”

Well that changes things just a bit.  What if I trusted God in the midst of turmoil and accepted refuge and strength? What if I let go of the worry? What if allowed that taut muscle in my neck slacken? What if I abandoned the sense that I need to be in control and gave it over to God?

Perhaps I will take a moment be still and think about the different possibilities that exist in a school year like that.

 

God of our refuge and strength. Remind us that we can let go.  Thank you for catching us when we do. Amen

 

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Pier” courtesy of unsplash at Pixabay.com

How to Reduce Back-to-School Anxiety

Back to School

When I was a child, back to school came with lots of excitement and the good kind of anticipation. For my son, it was a very different experience.   Early on, we didn’t have anything close to a smooth transition when the school doors flung wide, welcoming all the little people who had become somewhat bigger people over the summer. As the first few years got off to bumpy starts, I found he grew anxious about the start of the school year. I started to worry too. Would my son have a teacher who was a good fit for his needs?  Would he be able to cope with the social strain? Would he handle all the new material he needed to learn? Would he be safe from bullies? Would he make just one friend that year?

Dear God, is it asking too much for the answer to all of those questions to be “yes?”

For both of us, the sense of anxiety about back to school had much to do with the unknown. What happened to the “fun” part of back-to-school that I had known?  I was determined to help him have some happy memories by making what felt unknown become familiar instead.  Here are a few strategies that worked well for my family:

  • Brush up on academic skills. Math skills were always a challenge and hard-won gains eroded quickly over the summer. We found a math tutor who did a two-week intensive, meeting one-on-one an hour a day.
  • Review lists of back to school supplies with your child’s therapists. Check for alternate suggestions that best suit your child’s needs and motor skill abilities. Also, schedule ongoing after school therapy appointments. Therapist’s schedules fill quickly in those coveted afterschool hours. Booking early will help reserve the time slot that best fits the rhythm of your family and minimize disruption.
  • Make a “First Day Plan.” Navigating crowded hallways can be overwhelming to children with sensory issues, especially if he or she already has anxiety about a new routine. Introduce your child to their “go to” people, such as the school nurse, cafeteria monitor, and so forth. We used to arrange a time before school began, apart from the hectic “meet your teacher” night, and find the route to classroom, library, cafeteria, nurse’s office, and restrooms.
  • Avoid unnecessary embarrassment by having a spare change of clothes and underwear tucked away at school, just in case.
  • Help your child connect with other children he or she already knows who will be in the classroom. A familiar face on the first day of school can help alleviate anxiety.
  • Get in the groove ahead of time. Adjust bedtime and waking time to match the back-to-school schedule during the week before school. Experiment with lunch. The first day goes so much better if a picky eater is willing to eat what is packed in their lunchbox. What they ate happily a few months ago may suddenly be less appealing. Try doing a full dress rehearsal of getting ready for the first day and keep it fun rather than rushed.
  • Plan to something simple, but special to your child after the first day. It may take a few weeks to get into a settled routine and that is alright. Celebrate even small victories along the way.
  • Pray for your child each day and give over to God all that is outside of your control.

These are a few ways that my family made back-to-school fun again.  I’d love to hear what works for your family.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Back to School” by Nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Blog republished from 8/12/15

 

 

Special Needs Parent Appreciation!

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For the month August, Sandra Peoples and Carol Flory at Not Alone Ministry launched Special Needs Parent Appreciation Month. Plain moms and dads get a mere day to celebrate their talents as parents.  Special needs parents deserve an entire month!  It’s fitting that they chose “back-to-school” month, undoubtedly the most stressful month of the year for most special needs families.  If there is ever a time when we need a bit of extra appreciation, August is it! For all of those therapy appointments, for juggling a tight budget, for giving tirelessly to those who need it most, for the million ways in which you give and care – Well done!

Earlier this year a parent said to me, “I wish there were a devotion just for special needs parents. I read other devotions. I like them alright. I just wish I could find one that really resonates my experience.”  As a gift to special needs parents, Not Alone Ministry created a 30-day devotional eBook. They tackle hard topics like anger, guilt and fear, as well as the lighter fare of parenting, such as hope, friendship and grace. They invited a variety of disability writers to contribute, including me.  You can read more about the project here: http://bit.ly/1ECJEiU and you can download your copy of the devotion here: http://bit.ly/1My3eTT

On a personal note, many folks have been asking about an eBook version of Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving.  The eBook was released on Amazon on my son’s birthday, which feels perfectly fitting! You can find both the print and electronic versions here: http://amzn.to/1h0kSEy

Renewing God, for the parent who gives constantly and takes little for themselves, provide an opportunity for self-care.  For the parent who yearns to hear their child say thank you, help them feel that appreciation in ways that transcend words.  For the parent who worries maybe they are not enough, remind them we are all more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who strengthens us all. Let all that we do as parents be to your glory. Amen

Blessings!

Rev Doc Lorna

Back-to-School Prayer

Little Boy Holding a Whiteboard by photostock

Here in Texas it is the first day of school. I’m thinking of all the parents and students who are feeling a bit anxious today. Transitions are hard for most, but especially so when for children with developmental differences. One friend is sending her son off for his first day of school ever. Another friend just sent a photo of her son on his first day of middle school and it reminded me of my anxious nerves when that was my son making those big transitions.

Years ago as I met with his helping teacher the week before school started she asked, “Do you just sit home and worry about him all day?”

I tried to shrug it off. “Oh no! I have part-time job I go to at the church while he is at school.”

She looked skeptical.  She knew the truth… that I simply went to work and worried about him there rather than at home.

Was there ever a perfect first day of school? No. Not at our house.  But we all made it home at the end of the day and sorted out the new routine.  Day by day it got better.  So much of that worry was simply a waste of energy.  I probably contributed to making my son yet more anxious.  Ouch!  That is a painful realization.

Jesus offers valuable advice about wasted effort of worry

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
(Luke 12:25-27 NRS)

Great advice, but I know it is hard to follow at times. And so I offer this prayer for all the folks feeling anxious about back-to-school.

Nirturing God, grant peace to those who are anxious, big people and little people alike. Bless teachers and thank you for giving them the gifts of nurture, creativity and patience.  Guide them in uderstanding and welcoming students who are unique. As parents we want good things for our children and want to protect them. Help us to let go of the worry we feel at times of transition and trust in what you have in store in the future. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo: “Little Boy Holding a Whiteboard” by photostock courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net

Eight Ways to Reduce Back to School Anxiety

Back to School

I’m sharing with my readers a guest blog I wrote for Ellen Stumbo.  You can read the original post here.

When I was a child, back to school came with lots of excitement and the good kind of anticipation. For my son on the autism spectrum, it was a very different experience.   Early on, we didn’t have anything close to a smooth transition when the school doors flung wide, welcoming all the little people who had become somewhat bigger people over the summer. As the first few years got off to bumpy starts, I found my son who is on the autism spectrum grew anxious about the start of the school year. I started to worry too. Would my son have a teacher who was a good fit for his needs?  Would he be able to cope with the social strain? Would he handle all the new material he needed to learn? Would he be safe from bullies? Would he make just one friend that year?

Dear God, is it asking too much for the answer to all of those questions to be “yes?”

For both of us, the sense of anxiety about back to school had much to do with the unknown. What happened to the “fun” part of back-to-school that I had known?  I was determined to help him have some happy memories by making what felt unknown become familiar instead.  Here are a few strategies that worked well for my family:

  • Brush up on academic skills. Math skills were always a challenge and hard-won gains eroded quickly over the summer. We found a math tutor who did a two-week intensive, meeting one-on-one an hour a day.
  • Review lists of back to school supplies with your child’s therapists. Check for alternate suggestions that best suit your child’s needs and motor skill abilities. Also, schedule ongoing after school therapy appointments. Therapist’s schedules fill quickly in those coveted afterschool hours. Booking early will help reserve the time slot that best fits the rhythm of your family and minimize disruption.
  • Make a “First Day Plan.” Navigating crowded hallways can be overwhelming to children with sensory issues, especially if he or she already has anxiety about a new routine. Introduce your child to their “go to” people, such as the school nurse, cafeteria monitor, and so forth. We used to arrange a time before school began, apart from the hectic “meet your teacher” night, and find the route to classroom, library, cafeteria, nurse’s office, and restrooms.
  • Avoid unnecessary embarrassment by having a spare change of clothes and underwear tucked away at school, just in case.
  • Help your child connect with other children he or she already knows who will be in the classroom. A familiar face on the first day of school can help alleviate anxiety.
  • Get in the groove ahead of time. Adjust bedtime and waking time to match the back-to-school schedule during the week before school. Experiment with lunch. The first day goes so much better if a picky eater is willing to eat what is packed in their lunchbox. What they ate happily a few months ago may suddenly be less appealing. Try doing a full dress rehearsal of getting ready for the first day and keep it fun rather than rushed.
  • Plan to something simple, but special to your child after the first day. It may take a few weeks to get into a settled routine and that is alright. Celebrate even small victories along the way.
  • Pray for your child each day and give over to God all that is outside of your control.

These are a few ways that my family made back-to-school fun again.  I’d love to hear what works for your family.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Back to School” by Nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just the Right Teacher

Back to School

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching … (Romans 12:6-7 NRS)

Meet-the-teacher night is always exciting, nerve-wracking, and hope-filled. Thinking back to when my son was young, at the start of a new school year, I would get anxious butterflies thinking about whether or not a teacher would “get” my son.  His behaviors could be challenging. He took up a lot of extra time due to his learning differences.  I would try to fill the gap a bit for his teachers each year by taking things off their plate where I could.  I figured teaching my son ought to come with some perks. I volunteered to help in the workroom, moving my teacher’s requests to the top the pile and doing them first. Every month I’d leave a small appreciation gift in their mailbox just to let them know how much it meant to me that they were helping my son learn despite his challenges.  A small packet of home-baked cookies, a giant chocolate bar, a gift card to a coffee shop or movie theater were just simple ways of saying thanks. My gifts were so small in comparison to the gifts they gave to Craig.

Teaching children is not a gift I have.  You know how some folks can walk into a room, snap the lights off and on and everyone gets quiet and pays attention?  When I try that I have five kids racing to the light switch, “Let me do it!” Math facts? Forget it! Oh I know them.  I just can’t teach them without someone ending up in tears. Often it’s me! Teaching truly is a gift and some have it and some don’t.  Since I don’t, I really appreciate those who do.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received came from my son’s helping teacher in first grade.  She had a great heart for special needs and could see past diagnosis to my son as a child of God, loving what she saw there. Toward the end of first grade we were talking after school one day when I picked up Craig. She was hoping for a child of her own, which was not coming as easily as it does for some.  She told me that she wished she had a boy just like mine.  I commented something about raising a boy is a lot of fun.  She said, “No. You aren’t hearing me.” Choking back tears, “I want a boy exactly like him. He’s amazing!” It was a healing balm for a hurting mother’s heart to know this woman who spent all day every day with my child was undaunted by behaviors and learning differences. Of all the kids she knew and helped she wanted one just like mine. In a way, her acceptance helped me with my acceptance.  I always accepted my child, but autism? It takes a while to make peace with that.  Having just the right teacher taught me a thing or two.

Prayer: Teaching God, We thank you for those who have the gift of teaching. They bless our families in powerful ways. Each child has a teacher who can unlock their abilities.  We pray your blessings on them as they prepare for a new school year. Amen.

Photo: Back to School by nuttakit from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just One Friend Part 2

Calhan_Colorado_High_School_Cafeteria_by_David_Shankbone

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. (Proverbs 18:24 NRSV)

Everyone wants and needs relationships. We are hard-wired for it. One of the biggest hurts I have felt as a parent is wanting my child to feel accepted and connected to others. In the support groups I lead it is a common issue that resurfaces again and again. I talk to parents about nurturing the relationships they do have and they switch to talking about relationships their children don’t have. I have been mulling around an idea that has not really taken shape yet, but it goes something like this. Wouldn’t it be great if churches could host a “Just One Friend” night. Invite the special needs community and anyone else who is looking for friendships. Set up games and activities. Parents stay and help foster connections. This in’t a respite night. It’s a relationship building night. Kids build relationships with kids.  Parents build relationships with each other. The general premise is that folks are coming to have fun and meet new people that they may want to connect with after game night is over. That’s kind of a bare bones snap shot, but I think it could be a way churches could offer important relief from isolation, which is a big part of healing on the journey with special needs.

Here are a couple of practical strategies I used for nurturing friendships when my son was younger. I recognize that this is not a universal list for all the various differences amongst our children. Hopefully it will at least provide some fertile ground for other ideas to spring up as well:

  • Remind your child that everyone will be looking to meet new people. They are not alone in that feeling of being in a class with new people.
  • Have your child talk to kids who are friendly and suggest they ask them questions. Kids love to talk about what they did over the summer. Be an interested listener.
  • Have them look for others who look lonely and talk to them. My son can spot a kid on autism spectrum in heartbeat. Like matches with like sometimes.  They get him in a way others don’t.
  • Have them make friends with grownups at school. The cafeteria monitor can be a great ally in finding friends and avoiding bullying.
  • Dress like everyone else. This sounds basic, but it is amazing what an impact it can have if a child is “over-dressed” for school, especially boys. If they look like they came from a fashion shoot for children’s resort wear change their clothes!
  • If you feed them they will come. If Craig had a friend over in elementary school (not an everyday occurrence!) I’d ask his guest what was his or her favorite cookie and then bake them while the kids played. Over the years Craig’s friends started calling our house Craig’s Pub. As teens, I started calling them the herd that comes to graze. BTW – 5 grazers coming for a half day video game birthday bonanza this weekend. (Number of gamers times number of pizza slices I think they want plus an extra two per person because they are boys divided by the number of slices in a large pizza…) Prayers appreciated that I don’t get trampled in the kitchen!
  • In keeping with the above strategy, drop by once or twice a month to the school cafeteria with a couple of pizzas or one of those giant cookie cakes. Some folks grab a slice and run. Others grab a slice and stay.
  • If you typically pack a treat in your child’s lunch, pack two so that they have an extra to share.
  • Invite others. Waiting around for a playdate invitation that doesn’t come feels lousy. Make the effort to extend yourself. Sometimes there will be rejection, but other times you get a winner.
  • Be intentional about fostering relationships. Even small acts of kindness are nurturing.

What are some friendship strategies that have worked in your household? Please comment and share ideas.  You never know what may help another parent spark a friendship.

Prayer: Loving God, We are wonderfully made to be in connection with others.  Please help those connections to grow among our children. Calm nervous feelings about meeting new people and open pathways for meaningful relationships to flourish. Amen.

Photo: “Calahan Colorado High School Cafeteria” by David Shankbone