August! The most stressful month of the year for me. I have three children, two who are now grown and a thirteen year old at home. Thanks to the pandemic, he’s never learned how to go out and call for his friends, so most of the time he is bored! The older two have August birthdays, as does my mom. In the UK we have school uniforms that are cheaper than they were when I was at school thanks to supermarkets, but they never fit and are still a chunk of money you need to fork out in the holidays. Consequently, my poor kids are often stressed around me, and of course that translates into stressy kids. One has Aspergers, another lives with dyslexia, and the eldest, well she was just a teenage girl - surely there can be no harder thing! Those first few days of going back to school have always been a bit angsty. So how do we navigate September with all these issues flying about?
Well, I start the process, right at week two of the holidays. Week one is just about letting them kick loose and wrecking their rooms! After the big sweetie wrapper collection, we can start imposing tidying rules and preparing for the new year.
An important part of it is practicing being calm, but I’m not a skilled enough parent to get my kids to meditate once a day. Instead I like to have a selection of diffusers that inform the day. Nice happy ones in the morning - lemon, orange, bergamot - that uplift and make them feel positive. About four o’clock the older kids’ patience would run out with each other and so I like to have a bit of a wind down vibe going on. Not sleepy yet, but more harmonious, ready for dad to come in the door. It all sounds a bit 1950’s house-wifey, but I am a big fan of happy and calm. For this I love ylang ylang and chamomile - together or apart.
Evening then, time for snoozles - lavender, geranium or valerian in the bath.
So what we are doing here is training their minds and bodies with the oils. This will make it easier for them to relax when the stressful times are looming.
Create Fragrant Associations
Help them get used to associating certain scents with different times of the day. Lavender is cuddles maybe? My youngest always liked his teddy bear to smell of frankincense. It helped when he had a cold, and was comforting when he began at nursery. When everything is new and strange, familiarity can be very helpful. “Blue Bear” always had a spot of frankincense on his head for years.
Geranium is a great oil to use after the first day back. When life feels overwhelming, geranium feels happy and cozy.
If they are very afraid, valerian and vetiver are very helpful. The only thing is that they are both quite grown up fragrances so you might want to blend them with something else. Lavender and valerian, rose and valerian, orange and valerian, all relaxing and uplifting in different ways.
Think about how being worried gets you up in your head, and your thoughts keep spinning…if we can ground them, then the feelings of panic tend to subside. Vetiver and myrrh are really great oils for that.
I love a bit of chamomile - Roman chamomile, mainly because it’s usually cheaper for that feeling of “Whatever will be will be”. It has a kind of relaxed excitement to it. What’s the universe going to bring for me today?
No need to get too prescriptive either. In some ways we don’t necessarily need to be getting them calm per se…just away from anxiety. Any shift is probably a good shift. So let them smell the oils and play. “How does that make you feel?” Any new feeling is a good feeling.
Be careful of each oil’s safety, of course, especially if you have epilepsy in the family. Remember, you can always take a quick check for safety details in my free book, but for the most part sniffing an oil will be fairly harmless in these situations. Have a look for what I call “Sniffy sticks”, essential oil inhaler sticks. These are great as a way of taking some of mom’s lavender cuddles with them, or simply making a happy blend they like.
Aromatic baths are great, of course, as are massages.
My favorite hack for my dyslexic son was his aroma pencils.
I buy unvarnished pencils and wipe some oil along the edge of them with a cotton bud. Peppermint one for when the class is loud and he can’t concentrate. Sweet Orange when he is worried that he can’t do this sum, piece of writing, or whatever. Valerian and orange if he feels panicky and rosemary to help him focus. A friend of mine went a step further and wrote lovely messages along all of hers too. I can’t write as tightly as she can, but I wish I could. Hers are brilliant.
Best of Luck
So, here’s to a productive new term and I am always looking for pointers. If you have any other ideas for keeping the kids calm, please do share them.