Easing Back to School Worry

Back to school season often comes with lots of jitters and excitement. Parents, especially those of us who have been juggling the hectic summer camp schedule Tetris game, are more than a little relieved to know that a more regular routine is on the horizon. As much fun as the summer is in eastern Virginia, by the time mid-August rolls around, I know I am usually ready to shove those school supplies into backpacks and wave goodbye to that big yellow bus.

Whether you will be crying on the first day, jumping for joy, or maybe a healthy mix of both, let’s talk about some ways we can help our families settle into this seasonal transition. Your instinct might be to minimize any new school year nerves your child is expressing in an effort to help them feel better. While this approach is full of good intentions, it can sometimes backfire by sending the message that we aren’t listening or noticing the intensity of little feelings. The most effective way for a smooth transition is to normalize those jitters and nerves and offer a nonjudgmental ear. Let’s break down some ways to do exactly that!

First, try connecting and observing, rather than correcting. If your child is displaying some unusual behaviors such as testing limits, arguing, or simply being extra. . . extra, take a step back before you “over-correct” and ask yourself what this is really about. Depending on the age of your child, they might not have the language or clear emotional awareness to communicate that they are nervous about all the “new” that comes with the new school year. The best solution is to simply talk about it. Something like, “I remember always being nervous about what to expect on the first day of school, do you ever feel like that?” We are all nervous or anxious to some degree when we go into an unfamiliar environment. The new friends, teacher, desks, lunch room, hallway, etc. will all need getting used to. It’s normal and expected to be nervous about something you’ve never done before.

Second, find a way to have a trial run of the first day routine. Take advantage of the back to school/meet the teacher events at your child’s school. Make a point to really point out where in the building the classroom is and walk it together just like they will on the first day. Make sure to notice where they will sit, and even see if they want to sit down at their desk to really get the full experience of what it will be like. Getting to rehearse the process will make it much easier on that first day morning. This also gives you a chance to help them visualize it and practice a coping strategy in the actual environment. For example, remembering what the classroom looked like and where their desk was on “back to school” night and have them practice taking deep breaths while picturing being in the classroom.

Finally, try to model a coping strategy and practice it together. For younger kids, send them with some sort of comfort object for a pocket or to wear. A cool shell you found on vacation this year or a worry stone is a nice, small, age-appropriate object you can prompt them to hold whenever they miss home/family/etc. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we tend to breathe more shallowly. This is why deep breaths are the most effective way to calm down our central nervous system and let our body know that we are safe. Explain this fact to your children and help them understand breathing doesn’t solve our problems, but gets our brain ready to do its best work. Practicing deep breathing, like four-count breathing, while holding their comfort object will give them a tool to rely on when they are on their own on the big day. It is also a nice inconspicuous way to manage big feelings that is appropriate for any age (adults included!). 

Above all, be kind to yourself. You are doing a great job and your child is so lucky to have you in their corner! Happy New School Year!


A birthday gift for a beautiful mother

Someone very dear to me is celebrating her birthday today. She is a mother of two beautiful boys and she is tired. Her boys are two years old and six months. She is in the thick of it. The “dark days” as many of us who are on the other side of the baby/toddler season of life refer to it. (Do we? Just me? That’s fine. I fully admit that they were dark, indeed.) She is a working mother (aren’t we all?) who is raising two, very small, young humans during a global pandemic. Calling it “uncertain times” seems to be vastly understating this experience. This brave mother is nurturing her children, giving it all she has, every. damn. day. Today is her birthday and I found myself wondering, what would she want? What could I possibly give her that could help her during this immensely challenging season of her life? I can make a joke and say, “hope the baby gives you an extra hour or two of of sleep for your birthday!” <chuckle, chuckle> But, that definitely feels flat and, honestly, absurd. The one thing I wish I had had when I was in my “dark days” was grace. Grace for myself was definitely not at the top of my whirling mind. It’s so easy to forget yourself amid the constant demands of motherhood and ignore your own basic needs.

Maybe, if we look at life like a three act story, childhood and young adulthood are Act 1, where we learn about the characters and what experiences shaped their identity. Act 2 is the dark night of the soul. The low point of the whole production. You know, that Ted Lasso Season 2 feeling. What makes it so hard is that we forget there is going to be an Act 3. That final season when we can see how the characters come out of the dark days and into the light with their new knowing. Forever changed. That is parenthood. You go into it so excited and giddy to have a sweet cuddly baby you have been longing for. You’re then immediately rocked to your core as you experience sleepless nights, trips to the ER, emotional meltdowns, and food ending up everywhere but in that growing human’s body. You’re bleary eyed and feel confused and alone because we don’t talk enough about how normal this is. Yes, our IG feeds are full of the cute outfits and posed photos with the loveliest filters. There should be a RealGram for parents to join in solidarity. Images of spit up covered shirts, messy rooms with the floor strewn with brightly colored plastic, sinks overflowing with breakfast and lunch dishes, dust bunnies, under eye circles, sticky hands, and tears.

Self-Compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.”

Kristen Neff

Kristen Neff has done research on self-compassion and lists the following as necessary elements: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. I think my RealGram app might not be as pretty as your regular IG feed, but it would allow us to connect through the shared humanity of the messiness of parenting. And, wow, is it ever messy. If there is one universal experience of motherhood, I’d put money on it being this: “I am so bad at this.” So, maybe it would hit a little different, scrolling through everyone else’s mess, but I do think sharing it out loud more often would help us all feel less alone and maybe more lovable and worthy. Just letting go of the need to always make it look easy and breezy. We all know it is not breezy. There is power in the vulnerability of speaking truth to not feeling like an amazing mother. I don’t think there has ever, in the history of motherhood, been a mother who just flips her hair and says, “Oh, motherhood? Easy, right? I’m totally crushing it. My kids are so well-adjusted, it’s almost boring.”

Motherhood is hard and beautiful. It is both. Always. Maybe that is because life is hard and beautiful. It is a shared human experience.

My birthday wish for you is that you can look into your beautiful heart where you keep all that amazing love for those tiny boys and their father and find some reserved just for you. I promise there is enough. You have an enormous heart with a capacity to give so much. For your birthday, and all the days you tread this earth, give yourself permission to give yourself as much love as you think your boys are worth. You are worth the same. Being a mother doesn’t make your value less, in fact it multiplies. For all those sweet people you love so dearly, they love you just as much, if not more. They might not be able to fully express it yet, but those sweet eyes look at you like you hung the moon and the stars and, as far as they are concerned, you most certainly did. They need you. A full you, all that you are, exactly as you are because you are exactly the mother they were meant to have. So when you feel like you just don’t have any more to give, don’t. Pause and give yourself back the same love you would give to them if they were feeling as you are in that moment. Love you as much as they love you and you love them. Fiercely, unapologetically, and with armfuls of grace.

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.”

Brené Brown

I love you and I wish for you a beautiful day filled with all that you love. Especially you.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

With love from this mother’s heart to yours,



Why I didn’t cry on my first day back at work.

After taking almost ten weeks off for maternity leave, it was time for my husband and I to drop off baby girl at the sitter for the first time. We knew it would be tough and planned ahead to be able to stop  for brief coffee date before we went into work to help soften the blow. Leaving her with a stranger, albeit a trusted stranger, was very difficult for both of us, as new parents. Would the sitter know how to help soothe her if she cries? Wait, she might cry?! But, I won’t be there!! After reassuring ourselves that she was in good hands and that our little squishy ten-week-old baby would be just fine, we reluctantly went off to work.


As soon as I walked into the main office the administrator said, “Oh good, you’re back. We have an IEP meeting to go to at Such-and-Such Middle School.  Come on, let’s go.” And off, I was. Sitting in that meeting I quickly jumped back into my role and knew exactly what I needed to say. It felt good. I felt confident and competent. I thought to myself, “I really know what I am doing.” And boy, did it feel great.


It was much later when I realized that going back to work felt so natural and easy because I am a well trained professional with very specific skills, none of which include how to manage and care for a newborn baby. I also realized that I had spent much of my maternity leave wondering if I was doing the right thing at any given moment and second guessing myself. At work I am competent. At home I am clueless. At work I am confident in my skills and know where to find answers when I am unsure. At home with baby girl I found myself constantly trying to research and read to find exactly the right answer only to realize, in a huff of frustration, that there is no one right answer when it comes to babies, especially newborns.


Everyone tells you to trust your gut as a parent, to follow your instincts. That is no easy task when your day job is to be the one who is supposed to answer all the puzzling questions based on your extensive training and experience. My husband would often ask what I thought we should do in various baby-decision-making situations and it would frustrate me to no end. “Why do you think I would know and you wouldn’t?!” I would ask.  To which he would reply, “But, you spend so much time doing all that research.”


I know that my job makes me a better mom. At work I have skills and knowledge that help me do what I love to do, help children. I can feel competent and confident in my skills during the entire work day.  I can carry this feeling with me when I come home and can’t figure out why our baby won’t eat/sleep/stop crying.  I can remind myself that it is OK to not always have all the answers. I can remind myself to trust my gut.

education, parenting, school psychology

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.” – A. Einstein

Smart man, that Einstein.

I am a school psychologist. My job is to help identify barriers to learning and figure out how we can help kids reach their full potential. It is extremely rewarding, but it makes me very tired.  I sit in meetings. Lots of meetings. I don’t go to meetings to discuss kids who make honor roll, win academic scholarships, or ace college entrance exams. Not to say that the children we discuss won’t ever go on to do these things, typically the reason for the meeting is to discuss what is not going well. The problems. 

Did I mention that I love a challenge? I am a problem solver, a detective. Just call me Sherlock.

Sometimes, because my days are so heavy with problems, my vision gets clouded and I forget that the vast majority of kids are doing just fine. All I see, every single day, are parents and teachers who are at their wits end trying to figure out why their child just can’t learn to read or form a complete sentence or stop crying in the middle of class for no apparent reason. It is my job to know  about all of the things that can go wrong in child development. Genetic Anomalies. Neurological Deficits. Developmental Delays. Learning Disabilities.

One afternoon, during my pregnancy, I was talking to my own mother on the phone about parenting worries. I was talking in circles about all the things that could go wrong if you make one wrong choice as a parent. As she was trying to reassure me that the likelihood of something like this occurring in my baby was slim, I sighed and said, “I just know too much about all of the things that can go wrong.” My mother laughed at me and said, “Maybe you do, but she will probably turn out just fine.”

Welcome to my blog. I plan to share my parenting journey though all the “what ifs” and “but I read somewhere thats”. I think, in spite of my best efforts, we will turn out just fine.