Savvy Parenting

A strategy for each (parenting) moment

Back-to-School: Parenting Strategies to Avoid Burnout

Parents and students need to pace their energy to last for the long school year.

It’s the start of a new school year and back-to-school time is often a rebirth of sorts, but that rejuvenation can be short-lived. Unless parents take some precautions, they might end up burnt out, by April. Like running a marathon, pacing is everything. For recent television coverage on this topic click here

In today’s demanding world, parents and their children feel pressured to appear more perfect than the next door neighbors. Throw in technology that seems to change daily and requires parents to take courses to keep up, now you have what I call a generation and growing of burnt out parents, or as I have coined it “Burnt out parent syndrome”. Parents, at their core, have lost their way, and their own needs fall behind as they attempt to manage those of their children. How can parents care for their children’s emotional, spiritual and individual needs when their own are neglected?

 Remember that parents have to have their needs met before they can help their children (think about parents on planes who are advised to put their oxygen masks on before they assist their children with theirs). But often during the increasingly busy school year, parents gradually put their needs aside to meet their children’s needs. This creates a scenario for parent burnout by mid-spring. Some parents may expect to be coming into the homestretch when spring break is over, but the last months of school can be brutal for kids and even more so for their parents who are managing it all. Kids may have state exams, spring sports, class trips, final projects, and final exams. Homestretch coming in March? No way. Activities and pace of life for kids are all just gearing up. How can parents prepare now for the last stretch of this year long-marathon? Here are some tips:

Stick to a self-care routine. No matter what. And do not waiver! Make a pact with a support system to check in about consistency. At the first signs of veering off-track – don’t! Even if the kids have to miss out on something. Parents who take care of themselves are more present when their kids really need them.

Plan ahead. Use a school syllabus and organization tools in advance to avoid being blindsided later.

Know what to expect. Especially when agreeing to more than one sport or activity.

Limit activities. Have a conversation with your child and explain the concept of “we can’t do it all.” A visual calendar with days and times will illustrate a parent’s position nicely when limiting activities.

Designate a weekly review time. Maybe one hour on Friday afternoons to go over everything that is needed for the upcoming two weeks. Allow time for planning and prevent being caught off guard. It’s the racing out to Wal-Mart at nine at night a few times before March rolls around that flags a parent before the final sprint!

Don’t take too much on. Don’t volunteer for everything; don’t jump on to every good idea. Parents and the kids bear the brunt of it. Parents can’t do everything. Accept limits and everyone will be happier.

Spend quality time with your kids. Kids are forgiving when they occasionally miss an activity as long as they have positive time with their parents!

Copyright, 2013

 

Kate Roberts, Ph.D., is a consulting school psychologist and former professor of psychiatry at Brown University.

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