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Slow and steady: maintain positive momentum through the school year

Pace yourself! Pacing yourself, not overscheduling, can be difficult, especially with multiple children. Overscheduling and programming can cause burnout for both parents and children. Always look at September to November as the honeymoon period for both students and households. Children may fatigue and sometimes poor behaviors appear. It can be difficult to manage homework, school activities, karate, piano lessons, playdates, and keeping up with chores at home.

Use natural breaks in the school year to rest and recharge. Natural breaks are the scheduled times off from school. Take this time to unwind and unschedule. Although children thrive on being stimulated in their academics, extracurriculars, and social life, they also thrive at being a kid and having the opportunity to have breaks too.

Down time. This can decrease blowups in emotional and physical behavior, and teaches your children work-life balance at an early age. Long days are not only exhausting for the child, but also for the caregiver. Using rideshare apps to get children to multiple sports events, practices, signing into virtual Spanish lessons, and trying to have dinner before bedtime can be overwhelming. While it is important to maintain a positive momentum throughout the school year, try to remember you are not obligated to run a ten-month marathon to get to the summer break finish line.

Open communication. Other areas to keep in mind while navigating the wild roller coaster ride of a school year is keeping open communication with your children, school staff, and other persons in your day-to-day life. This will communicate to your children you are interested in what they are doing and are available to help problem solve and advocate for them. Try to make time to have open and frequent conversations. It is wise to let your children keep you up-to-date on their progress in school and activities. The frequency of these chats will vary depending on age and maturity level. Asking for help from others is an important life skill. Children learning to advocate for themselves is a skill that needs to be taught early.

Check-ins with yourself are important. Children are sponges. If we display negative attitudes and are overwhelmed, this will affect their reactions and ability to respond to their stressors, to maintain day-to-day expectations, and look after themselves. Take time for breaks, try to keep a positive outlook, and be present in your child’s life. Being present will allow you to keep track of your child’s emotional states.

Increase time together. Have no-screen family time, and show your children how to take breaks both physically and mentally. Try to have longer conversations about how school is going on the weekends while you relax and spend time together. Remember to have times where there are no scheduled activities. If school becomes a challenge, check in with the teacher to see what might be required. Keep in mind, if academics are too challenging, your child may constantly be struggling to keep up. Talk to your child’s teacher or administrative team to see what options you have for making adjustments. Placement in the appropriate level classes is crucial for student happiness at school, and can allow for a smoother year.

Monitor your child’s happiness around peers and their social skills. Talk to your children about bullying and what it may look like. Differentiate between being rude, mean, and being a bully. Children who have challenges with their peers and social skills can feel a lot of distress both at school and in their home environments. Some children who are being bullied may not realize it or, if they do, they may be afraid to confide in parents or other adults. Even children who have known each other for years can suddenly turn on each other, especially if they sense popularity is at stake. With tweens and teens, make sure to regulate screen time, social media use, and check devices regularly.

Get help. If you feel your child has an appropriate schedule but is still showing signs of being disengaged or not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, get help. You can talk to a healthcare professional, their teacher, and/or coach. Childhood anxiety and depression continue to be on the rise, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main takeaway is do not feel like you are a bad parent or caregiver if your child’s weekly schedule is not full with multiple events. Remember, again, you are not running the ten-month school marathon. You are taking it stride by stride, making adjustments where needed, checking in with yourself and your child, and allowing for breaks and down time. Like many things, we are not born with the knowledge of self-care. Showing your child that you know how to pace yourself with emotional and physical check-ins will provide your child the ability to learn self-care, open communication, and self-regulation tools. The school year does not have to be a wild roller coaster ride. We know it will have its ups and downs - but just remember to check the harness and enjoy the ride.


The information provided in this article should not replace professional support or help. Alex Suvanto, M.Sc., is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with ABS Psychological Services.


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