Welcome to part 3 of a 3 parter. Congratulations, you are almost finished.
There are three keys to helping your kids thrive through transition. They are Rock, Paper and Scissors.
1. Rock = Stability: (click here) “There can be tremendous stability in a home that is in consistent transition when kids know . . . really know . . . that some things never change.”
2. Paper = Documentation: (click here) “Creatively keeping track of your story will give your kids a healthy connection to the pieces that they have let go of.”
Now for the Scissors.
Drumroll . . .
Scissors = Simplicity (I have already said too much)
Simply put (pun intended), cut some things out and trim some things down.
Two simple principles
1. Everything is bigger in transition (except you)
There is a rhythm to life on auto pilot that is disrupted by major transition. Consequently every event, every challenge, every part of every day life takes up more space and carries more weight.
2. Your kids need you to be healthy more than they need you to help them
There is a profound brilliance to the inflight safety instructions that you ignore every time you fly. You know, that part about the unlikely event of losing cabin pressure. “If you are traveling with a child, secure your mask first, and then assist the child.” Point being, you can’t help your kids if you’re passed out on the airplane floor.
More than anything, kids in transition need parents who are transitioning well. (Pay attention, this is good) We cannot transition well if we are pretending that nothing has changed. Everything has changed. Everything is bigger. Except you.
Going to the doctor is bigger. Why? Because you have to find a doctor. Then fill out the first time forms. Then go through all of the first time pleasantries and get to know you’s. Do we have your charts? Do we have your insurance card? Do you smoke, drink, exercise, gamble, skydive? How many days a week do you eat fried foods? The whole event is bigger.
Shopping is bigger. New grocery store. Where are the pickles? They should be right here. That’s where they were at the old place. Why would they not put the pickles right here? Bigger.
Cooking dinner is bigger. Honey, where do we put the skillets now?!!
Everything is bigger and there is more of it . . . except you. You are the same and you cannot carry the same load that you are used to because everything in the load . . . say it with me . . . is bigger. For your own sake (which is very much for the sake of your children) . . .
It is time to simplify.
Two simple questions
1. What can you cut out?
What are the things that you can do without temporarily? Not forever. Just until life is normal again.
2. What can you trim down?
Maybe you can’t get rid of it altogether but you can make it smaller and less consuming.
Some Simple Thoughts on Simpleness
1. Get Crystal Clear on your Values
Knowing what is important is the first step to cutting out and trimming down. Another way to say that is, if it’s not important don’t do it. Make your short list of the most important things in your life and filter everything through that list.
2. Don’t Justify Your Busyness with Your Values
If your kids are not on your short list you should go back and give that another shot. However, volunteering to be the President of the Parents and Teachers Organization which meets every Tuesday night and one Saturday morning a month may not be the best choice as you transition. You could easily justify it though. After all, you want your kids, whom you love very much, to have a good education and the best way to ensure that is to get involved right?
“Absolutely right” . . . said the parent who then passed out on the airplane floor.
Get your mask on first. Then join the PTO.
3. Think Long Term
Transition is a season. It won’t be like this forever. Just because you don’t have space for it right now doesn’t mean you won’t later. You might make a fine president next year but for now focus on the highest values.
4. Get Comfortable Saying No
Depending on the community that you are transitioning into you may suffer from “fresh meat syndrome”. Some communities (especially smaller and over worked ones) get hyper excited when new people arrive. They may have you pre-volunteered to be the basketball coach, the Sunday School teacher or errand boy before you ever ride into town. Know your limits and politely decline.
If you need to blame it on your kids go for it. People understand that. “You know, I’d really love to but we’re kind of transitioning right now and my kids really need some extra attention from me.”
Boom. 1000% true and socially acceptable.
5. Own Less Stuff
Transition can be a good time to enjoy the simplicity of the necessities. We are in the process of restocking our lives and finding ourselves pleasantly surprised by how little we really need. Stuff can be helpful but it can also mean a lot of maintenance and a lot a distraction that we just don’t have space for right now.
Transition has given us the opportunity to purge on a number of occasions. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend selling all of your things but if you find yourself in the process of rebuilding it can be a wonderful time to enjoy the natural peace and quiet of fewer things.
6. Rest Well
Sleep, or the lack thereof, makes everything smaller. If you’re not getting adequate rest you have less ability to concentrate, remember, tolerate stress and apply the wealth of wisdom that is in your brain to any given challenge. In short, you are less of a person (no offense). Add transition to that and you are less of a person trying to carry more of a load. Unfortunately the heavier load may be the reason you’re not getting sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.
Step one: Go to bed.
I am no righteous soapboxer on this one. I love movie night. We pay monthly for Netflix. I have employed both the Wonderpets and Kung Fu Panda as a babysitter. I am not anti-electricity . . . however . . . I will provide a strong testimony to the fact that our best family moments are unplugged. They come around a dinner table or playing some ridiculous game.
Those are the times that we get to see inside of our kid’s amazing little minds. That’s when we really know how this whole transition thing is going for them.
8. Have a Plan
Everything runs smoother with a plan. The hours of your life that will be wasted trying to make decisions on the fly can often be saved by thinking it through for a few minutes before you begin. If you’re an average parent of average school age kids you are lucky to get three hours with them in the evening before it is time for bed.
Not having a plan looks like this:
Dad: “What do you want to eat?”
Mom: “I don’t care, what do you want?”
Kid 1: “MCDONALDS!!!”
Kid 2: “NO PIZZA!!”
Kid 1: NO!! MCDONALDS”
Dad: “We are not having Mcdonalds! We just had Mcdonalds last night!!”
Kid 2: “YEEAAHH!! PIZZA!!
Kid 1: DAAAAAADDD!!
Mom: “I don’t really feel like pizza.”
Kid 2: “MAAAHHHHHMMMM!!”
Dad: “Let’s just eat something at home.”
Kids 1 & 2: “NNOOOO!!! WE NEVER GO OUT TO EAT!!!
Mom: “THAT’S ENOUGH!! WE ARE EATING AT HOME!! IT’S HEALTHIER AND WE CAN WATCH TV WHILE WE EAT AND I’M THE MOTHER AND I SAY SO!!!”
Dad: “Yes. Settled. Eating at home. What do you want?”
Mom: I don’t care, what do you want?”
Even if the plan was eat at McDonalds (and there should probably be another blog post about why you should never eat at McDonald’s during transition) you could get there, eat your meal and be home by the time this conversation ends.
Understand this is not simply about meal planning. Everything runs smoother with a plan. Thinking ahead will make your life much simpler.
The bottom line is that transition can be chaotic and what your kids need is you. You at your best. You at your healthiest. You focused on what is most important . . . breathing . . . and then helping them breath.