Fall can be a challenging time for parents and kids as they return to school, work and extra-curricular activities. Like the leaves on the trees that are changing colour, families experience many transitions at the beginning of the school year. While there are many positive changes, the adjustments needed can put stress on kids and parents.
Going with the fall flow is easier said than done. So when the animals start preparing for the winter and the days get shorter and cooler, parents need to be intentional about building kids' confidence. The great news is that kids typically enjoy changing seasons and the excitement that celebrating them can bring.
Here are 12 powerful ways that parents can promote communication, goal setting, friendships and energy management and improve kids' overall belief in themselves during the fall.
1. Promote Connected Communication
Even in the busy fall days of returning to work and school, parents can find moments to really connect with their kids. One of the best ways to foster conversation is to get outside away from distractions. Rake up leaves (and jumping in them) in the backyard. Go on a trail walk. Take a drive to see the beautiful colours. These can all be great moments for connection. Others ways to keep sharing are fall themed conversations starters meal times and fall themed "would you rather" questions when planning what to do.
2. Encourage Creativity
Giving kids opportunities to express themselves in creative ways allows them to take a much needed break from the "shoulds" and the "have-tos" of school and structured activities. Creativity has no right or wrong, it is simply whatever lies inside of kids. When kids tap into their inner world, they can just be themselves. They can let thoughts and feelings run freely without judgement. Fall offers so many beautiful sights, sounds, textures, colours, smells and tastes. Invite your kids outside to savour it all using whatever creative medium they choose and see how their confidence grows.
3. Practice Compassionate Storytelling
The change in season gives us many metaphors and examples to help kids be compassionate with themselves and others. Birds are migrating south, trees are changing colour and losing leaves, squirrels and chipmunks are storing nuts for winter. How do you think migrating birds are feeling as they fly away from here? How would you feel if you suddenly had to go somewhere new? What could you say to the migrating geese to feel better? Using animals to start conversations about feelings provides a safe context for kids to share.
4. Dream With Them
Seasonal changes are natural transitions and a great time to think about the future. When it comes to kids, dreaming may mean simply looking at the month ahead and getting an idea about what things they may want to do. Do they have favourite activities or traditions that they want to do? What does celebrating fall look like to them? Do they have anything new they would like to try over the next few weeks? Looking ahead with kids helps them to plan and set goals. Try the basket filling activity in the Taking Fall Action Activity Bundle to help them decide what they want to do this month. Follow up with questions on how to make that happen.
5. Model Intention Setting
As days get shorter and cooler, there is a tendency for us to maybe feel less motivated and more tired. Setting to do lists for the day is a great way to keep on track when one would rather be snuggled under a fleece blanket. A good strategy is to choose three main tasks that need to be completed each day, then write down three steps to make each of them happen.
6. Offer Choices
As much as possible, including kids in planning is an excellent way to build their confidence. They can be involved in clothing choices, meal choices, activity choices, just to mention a few. There are many opportunities for giving kids choices in the fall season. You could ask kids to pick out pumpkins, place seasonal decorations, or help choose a seasonal menu of favourite foods. While parenting should help and be supportive of kids, making sure to step back enough that their kids can be part of decision making is important for confidence.
7. Encourage Listening
Knowing how to understand others and make them feel heard is one of the most important skills for kids. It is the key to healthy relationships and making connections with others. Getting kids to listen for nature sounds during a fall walk is an excellent way for them to practice hearing what is going on around them. Fall also provides a great opportunity for kids to get to know each other better. It is easy for kids to fall into the pattern of playing and talking about the same things without getting to know each other on a deeper level. Asking questions is a powerful way for kids to connect with others. Share the fall themed questions in the Taking Fall Action bundle with your kids and when you are finished, have them ask their friends.
8. Talk about Boundaries
The beginning of the school year is a great time to talk with kids about boundaries. They will be meeting new people and trying new activities and will need to think about their energy levels and what kinds of interactions and spaces make them feel safe. Wildlife is a great opportunity to notice differences in comfort levels. Some birds will eat out of your hand and some will prefer to keep their distance and feed on seed that is on the ground away from you. The falling leaves are an excellent metaphor for letting go of things that do not make you feel safe or valued.
9. Highlight Teamwork
The fall gives families many ways to work together. Sitting down to draw up a schedule of chores and weekly activities is an excellent way for parents to highlight how working together benefits everyone. If everyone works on keeping the house clean, then the family has more time to spend having fun together. Celebrating fall gives lots of moments to work together to decorate, create seasonal food and do outdoor chores to prepare for winter. When kids feel they are an important part of the team, they will feel more capable.
10. Get moving
When kids are stuck inside on their screens for long periods of time, they can develop inertia against getting up and moving. Fall is a beautiful time of year to go walking, hiking and exploring. Going apple picking, visiting a pumpkin patch, finding your way through a corn maze are all great ways for families to get moving together. Create fall themed relay races to do in your backyard, rake and jump in the leaves, or do a time-limited fall scavenger hunt.
11. Teach Self-Trust
There are many examples in nature of animals trusting their instincts during fall. Many birds fly to a warmer climate, while others prepare to hibernate. Teaching kids to listen to their emotional and physical feelings will help them learn to "trust their gut." If they realize that their emotions can tell them about their wants and needs, they will look inward instead of outward when making decisions.
12. Demonstrate Self-Care
Autumn's cooler and shorter days can impact how much energy kids and adults have. As parents, we can show kids how to manage their energy by suggesting activities to increase energy and ones to relax into when they feel tired or stressed. Having warm drinks that they enjoy having such as cider, or hot chocolate can give kids a much need calm and cozy moment. Taking a hike through the woods and feeding some squirrels and chipmunks might give kids a much needed break from screens.
Have Confidence This Fall
The fall season provides many moments for conversations and connection. It inspires us to be creative and dream about ways to be part of the change taking place in nature all around us. Autumn brings us together to share in doing and celebrating and it gives us quiet moments of reflection, calm and warmth. Through all of it, kids have chances to direct their own experience and when we give them space and choices, they believe they can do anything. If you are looking for a fall confidence activity bundle for kids, click on the picture below to download your free copy!