2. Call the tutor and ask her to reschedule Thursday’s session…CHECK!
3. Make sure Billy completes all of his homework before his piano lesson…CHECK!
4. Pick up snacks for Carly’s Girl Scout troop meeting…CHECK!
Daily to-do lists can be more than a bit overwhelming especially considering that they usually do not include our more routine tasks, like conquering the mountain of emails vying for our attention or tending to the myriad household chores that seem to multiply every time we blink. As I have written before, we have become a society of frantic, fatigued, and overworked individuals consistently sacrificing our health and well-being for things we are convinced—or that society has convinced us—are important. More and more research reveals a dramatic rise in anxiety and depression in both children and adults. It’s no wonder that Marie Kondo has become a best-selling author and Netflix star. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo calls on us to simplify our lives by de-cluttering our homes of those items that do not bring us joy.
As educators, this trend of over-stressed and overwhelmed students and parents makes our work much more complex and challenging. As if these things are not cause enough for alarm, many new concerns are emerging as we see students develop bad habits designed to anesthetize themselves from the stress and pressures of their day to day lives. One of the newest habits is vaping.
This relatively new trend has skyrocketed among students over the course of the last few years. According to the Surgeon General, the years 2011 through 2015 saw a staggering 900 percent increase in vaping among high schoolers. Unfortunately, teens and adults who believe that e-cigarettes and vaping are less harmful than regular cigarettes are misinformed. Because the adolescent brain is not fully developed, our youth are more vulnerable to addiction. This is not news. However it may be surprising to know that one Juul pod contains roughly the same amount of nicotine found in 20 cigarettes. Additionally, there are no studies detailing the long term risks of vaping. Much like cigarettes, there is an adverse effect to second hand smoke due to the chemicals being heated by the e-cigarette. One of the most alarming findings reveals that one Juul pod may contain a number of harmful substances including the flavoring, carcinogenic materials such as nickel and tin, as well as synthetic marijuana. Moreover, because the contents are not regulated, manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients in their products. This alone puts users at risk.
As we consider ways to process the stresses of 21st century life, it is essential to focus on finding time apart. For many religions and ancient traditions, one day is set aside each week as a day of rest. Often referred to as the Sabbath, the day apart becomes much more than a day of “rest.” It requires followers to remove themselves from the worldly routine, and spend time in quiet contemplation while taking notice of the wonders surrounding us. Scholar, theologian, author and poet Eugene H. Peterson defines the Sabbath as “uncluttered time and space in which we can distance ourselves from our activities.”
Does this sound vaguely familiar? Marie Kondo talks about decluttering in her book and writes, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart.” Now she may be referring to our physical stuff, but her deeper message challenges us to practice the art of letting go. This can mean saying no to serving on one more committee or agreeing to bake cupcakes for a co-worker’s birthday. It may mean taking an honest look at our lives, reducing the number of scheduled activities, and carving out more sacred time with our family.
In Robbinsville, as we continue our focus on the wellbeing of the whole child, we recognize the importance of providing opportunities that enable parents and children to spend down time together. Our school and extended community once again planned to participate in Robbinsville Night Off Feb. 27. This annual tradition was designed in response to the increasing demands of work and school on personal and family time. It is a night intended to promote wellness in our community; a night where families unplug from the pressures of school and work and reconnect with one another.
I also ask you to join us on Wednesday, April 24 for a parent presentation at Robbinsville High School featuring Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the New York Times best-selling book How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success (2015). This special county-wide event is made possible through a generous grant from the Mercer County Traumatic Loss Coalition and by help from our neighboring Mercer County school districts including East Windsor, Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, Marie Katzenbach, Lawrence, Mercer County Special Services/Technical Schools, Princeton and West Windsor-Plainsboro. More information will be forthcoming.
As you focus on reclaiming yourself and your family, we encourage you to also take advantage of these wonderful opportunities to reconnect with friends and our extended community. We believe you will be glad you did.
Kathie Foster is superintendent of Robbinsville Schools.