Back-To-School-Daze (9/5/07)

Dear Zelda,

I have three children under the age of eight (and a husband who qualifies to make it four children). I work a 40-hour week, have two dogs and an endless "to do" list. Quiet time and peace just don't exist in my life. With the beginning of another school year I am overly stressed. Zelda do you have any suggestions?

Looking For A Little Peace

Dear Looking,

Suffering from the Back-to-School-Daze, huh? The beginning of the school year for a working mother or father is full of extra activities, expectations, and responsibilities, many of which are just unavoidable. This is a stressful time, to be sure, but it, too, will pass. And I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to help smooth out the bumps along the way!

I’d suggest you start by “bull”-dozing any non-essential, stress-inducing external activities that rob you of your time and sanity. Try simplifying your responsibilities: make lists and take care of the critical items, and reschedule non-urgent activities for a later date. For example, your dogs will gladly wait until October for their annual visit to the vet. Also, when you can, eliminate or delegate those “to dos” that can be done by others. Ask that husband of yours to help clean up the dishes at night, or begin expecting your children to take on some more responsibility for chores: ask them, for example, to set out the clothes they plan to wear tomorrow the evening before. And get the older children to begin taking responsibility for the care and welfare of their younger siblings when possible. I know this is always a challenge, but when it works, this process can be wonderful in helping them grow up, and it can also free up little bits of time for you.

Make sure your house is a positive environment. Post affirmative statements like “Get all your ducks in a row,” or “Enjoy life…this is not a rehearsal,” around your house and have your children decorate them. Set up an in-basket and an out-basket like those in an office (think management). Have your children place their homework assignments in the in-basket when they come home and then place their completed assignments in the out-basket later in the evening. That way they see what they’ve completed, and when they leave in the morning they just pick up their work from the basket and head out the door.

Next, try to remove some of those things that are causing you inner stress. Identify any self-sabotaging emotional patterns that seem to surface with the back-to-school time of year. Do you feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated? Yes! But are you sometimes also creating even more turmoil than necessary by worrying about it? Probably. One good way to even out your keel is to have DEDICATED, PLANNED time to yourself each day, or every other day, that is a little window of “you” time. I know it feels like the world will collapse without you, but I promise it can survive for half an hour. Talk with your husband, and arrange to set aside a short piece of time in the morning or evening to just do something you enjoy, by yourself and for yourself. This may sound selfish, but trust me, it’s not... it’s a way to keep you sane and happy so you can do a better job of taking care of everything and everyone else in your life.

Finally, take time to be grateful for what you have, even when it drives you crazy. Step back and congratulate yourself for the fact that you have four people and two dogs in your family to love. Think positively about who you are and what a great job you’re doing managing not only your 40-hour-per-week job, but your very full household as well.

The more inner and outer clutter you can bulldoze from your days, the more space you will create for peace in your life. Approach back-to-school time positively and you’ll start both you and your children on a happy road for this new school year.

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

Hi Zelda, I love your web site but I’m 10 and I would like more games if you could, like bulldog games. Also how old are you? You look 2 years old!!!! My dog Gertie loves you!!! She’s a bullie too! Also I’m kinda nurvuse about going into 5th grade what should I do?

Love xoxoxoxoxoxoxo Bri and Gertie

Dear Bri and Gertie,

Thank you for those kind and thoughtful words. As for my age, I am young enough to run around crazy with excitement, but old enough to know better! Truth be told I’m eleven, just one year older than you.

Now about this business of being nervous before starting the 5th grade. Just so you know, this is a very normal thing for anyone your age who is about to start a new school year. I promise that everyone else in your class will be just as nervous as you on the first day. The nice thing is, each year it gets a little bit easier, because you know your friends will be there, and you will have done it so many times before. Heck, I'd even bet by the time you hit the 6th grade, you won't be nervous at all, you'll be DOG-GONE excited!

Just in case though, I do have an old-dog trick I can teach you that might help to calm down your nerves a bit. Start off by asking Mom or Dad to help you find your favorite photo of you and Gertie. One that makes you smile, giggle, or just plain laugh out loud. Once you've found it, take the photo and put it in a little frame that you can keep in your backpack (make sure there's no glass in the frame in case it breaks). Don't forget to make one for Gertie too! When you start to feel lonely, sad, or just needing to smile for a while, you can pull out your picture and remind yourself that ol' Gertie is at home, probably doing the same thing you are and looking at her picture too! How cool is that? You might even find it to be a great ice-breaker when making new friends, who share your love for us bullies.

As for bulldog games ZeeZee, Zoe and I love to play tug of war. A friend gave us a purple and pink fleece pull toy (oh so fashion-a-bull). We like to tug and tumble with it whether it is with each other or with our owner. Another game we like is Hide the Kong. One of our human pals shows us a rubber Kong filled with our favorite peanut butter and blue cheese. Then our pal hides the Kong and we run around sniffing and snorting until one of us finds it. We’ll try to work on some more games for the website, but we have to confess... we’re not very good with computers!

Good luck to you and Gertie, and big licks for an A+ year of 5th grade!

Zelda

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