During the School Term
The holidays are a chance for children and teens to slow down the pace of academic learning or maybe even switch off from it all together. When they return to school they are back into the thrust of school routines and long days of demands on their focus, attention, and general resilience.
A simple way to visualise what might be happening for your child/teen is to picture a bucket. The bucket represents your child’s/teen’s capacity to tolerate stress and pressure. Ideally, we want to keep the level of water in the bucket well below the brim, otherwise it’s likely to overflow. In the same way, we want to help our children and teens to maintain an optimal level of stress and pressure – so they are motivated and challenged to learn, but not overwhelmed.
Here are five tips that can help:
1. Have at least one “off day” during the weekend
The power of rest cannot be emphasised enough. Our children and teens are often on the go constantly, with busy lives and lots of demand during the school day and in extra-curricular activities. Having a scheduled day, where there are few requirements to engage in structured activities is important to give them time to decompress, consolidate learning and just generally rest and relax.
2. Get clear on which day(s) your child/teen tends to find the hardest
This could be due to general tiredness, a subject at school they find challenging or some other event that tends to really take it out of them. On these days, it could be good to scale back on after-school activities, or at least help them identify more relaxing tasks or hobbies to help them re-balance.
3. Make time to spend with your child/teen
I know, it’s the old “time together tip” … but here’s the thing – it really helps – even if your child/teen doesn’t want to “talk”. Your undivided attention at some point during the day is hugely reassuring and sends the message that you are there and ready to listen if needed. Additionally, research shows that this time spent “tuning in” with your child/teen has important positive effects on their brains.
4. Have a simple routine
This doesn’t have to be a militantly executed colour coded schedule – but rather a simple guide that outlines what happens at various points in the mornings and after school on weekdays. That way your child/teen can have some autonomy – a chance to organise themselves and make choices about how to spend their free time after a day where their every move can feel directed by others.
5. Positive reflection
this works for all ages. Each day take a moment to ask your child/teen to think of one thing (anything!) they think went well – and celebrate this. Give them a high five, a hug, or a big smile, and reinforce this win by letting them know you are proud they worked hard to accomplish this. It can also be a good addition if parents also state one thing that they think went well for their child/teen. This habit of noticing the positives, calling them out and celebrating the wins (no matter how small) is important for building a positive mindset and enhancing self-esteem.
Just think about these ideas as different ways you can “drain the bucket” of stress and pressure. Whilst we can’t stop the water going in, we can help our children and teens to find ways to keep the levels from overflowing and swamping them.