By: Bridget DeFiccio, Department Director: Clinical Outpatient Services
It’s that time again! Summer is unofficially over and the excitement of the first day of school is in the air. Another school year, jam packed schedules, homework, activities, work demands, dinner: how do you juggle it all without losing your cool?? How do you keep your child organized, excited for school and not overwhelmed by their responsibilities??
Every parent struggles at times but here are some tips to help you and your child adjust to the pressures and stress. (And, yes, our children feel the pressure as much as we do!).
Problem: The Morning Rush
Is your home the one where everyone is running around looking for shoes, backpacks, or lunch money? Are you trying to pack lunches and get breakfast into your kids at the same time? Is your tween/teen trying on 5 different outfits, discarding them on the floor into a pile the size of a small ski slope all the while crying, “You just don’t understand!”
Problem Solving Ideas:
Use the night before to prep. Believe me, the 10 minutes spent here will help you create a more calm morning.
- Lay out clothing, shoes, and all accessories (for a teen/tween, this means trying items on the night before, calling/texting everyone they know, sending a picture of the outfit and coming to a consensus).
- Pack your backpack.
- Check homework and sign any forms/homework needed.
- Prep lunches and breakfast by laying out nonperishables, cereal bowls, utensils, etc.
- Pack any work items you need.
Problem: The Dinner Rush
Driving home from work, you can’t think of one thing in your refrigerator, pantry or freezer to make for dinner. Will it be fast food? Again? A little planning will help keep down stress levels, plus it will cost less and be healthier for your family.
Problem Solving Ideas:
- Prep dinner as much as possible in the morning.
- Identify three “go-to” meals and always keep those items on hand. It doesn’t have to be fancy or involved, just something simple that will feed the whole family and is easy to both prepare and clean up.
- Don’t rely on fast food. 30 minute meals–or less–can be a reality (Rachael Ray created an empire on them!). Stock your pantry and freezer with staples your family uses often.
- Use the weekend to shop and prep food items (wash vegetables, make a huge tossed salad and pack in Ziploc bags to use as needed, trim meats and poultry, make a large weekend meal and store leftovers in smaller containers for a quick go-to meal).
- Sit down as a family for dinner—don’t allow anything with a screen to be used during dinner (TV, phone, computer, and hand held game). Try to encourage everyone to talk about something positive they either saw or engaged in during the day.
- Check out this great resource for family dinner ideas from food to conversation: thefamilydinnerproject.org
Problem: Parent-Teacher Communication
Do you feel disconnected from knowing what is happening in your child’s classroom? Is your child telling you everything is fine and all homework is done, yet their interim report card is showing a problem?
Problem Solving Ideas:
- The American School Counselor Association recommends you meet with your child’s school counselor at least three times per year (beginning, middle and end) to discuss your child’s challenges with the counselor. Even if there are no ongoing challenges, it is a good idea to reach out and introduce yourself.
- Meet your child’s teacher.
- Attend back to school night, but if needed, schedule a time to meet so you can discuss any issues in greater detail.
- Most schools have online homework assignments—check it out and track that your child is completing assignments and handing in homework.
- Offer to volunteer at your child’s school or in the classroom.
- Get involved in the Parent Teacher Organization.
Other tips to consider:
- Keep a calendar (either paper or electronic) and mark down everyone’s activities as they get scheduled so you have a visual reminder.
- Take time out for yourself. This applies to kids and teens as well. Everyone needs down time.
- Don’t overschedule activities. Academic achievement will amount to more college aid than athletics.
- When your kids are at practice, get your exercise. Walk around the field, track or neighborhood.
- Spend time in the evenings without the distraction of TV. Do not keep a TV on during homework time and schedule a TV-free night at least once per week if not more.
- Make your routine as consistent as possible.
- Enforce bedtimes especially for young children.
You don’t have to pick all of these ideas to feel less stress and pressure in your home. But if you try just a few things, I guarantee you will see and feel the results! Finally, know that you can always reach out for support.