Guest Blog: 10 Parenting Tips To Reduce End-of-School-Year Stress
Below is an article from psychotherapist and guest presenter at DA this year, Lana Gollyhorn, M.A., with 10 important parenting tips on how to reduce end-of-the-school-year stress and help your child succeed.
1. Remember that your child will have lower frustration tolerance when stressed.
Meltdowns and freakouts increase even for kids who normally manage school well because the pressure to perform makes it harder to manage strong feelings.
It may be difficult or impossible for children to meet some of their original goals for the school year, and this reality may be weighing on them as the year wraps up.
2. Maintain calm when they are stressed or anxious.
Try not to react emotionally when they say something extreme-“I’m never going to pass” or “you don’t believe in me.” Don’t enter a discussion debating those points and providing evidence that supports or negates their big feelings. They probably need a hug, space to vent feelings without your feedback, or maybe an encouraging comment “you’re working so hard, you’re going to do great.”
If you’re uncertain what your child needs- ask them if they need to vent or would like to problem-solve. Usually, at this time of year, they need to vent and are more open to problem-solving after they have vented first.
3. Increased pressure and higher workload may decrease processing ability. Your child may be more forgetful, less organized, or seem confused about simple things.
It is usually not helpful to have a parent point out this struggle when it’s happening. Instead ask how you can help, or let it go.
4. Now is the time to offer logistical support to your child.
Rides, lunches, help with laundry, reminders, and facilitating fun breaks will help your child focus on school and feel supported.
Working hard through challenges is what builds resilience, but sometimes a little help with everyday life tasks during crunch time can facilitate growth and success.
5. Don’t discuss the future or ask them to make big decisions.
Resist pointing out that if they procrastinate like this in college they’re going to fail etc. A common frustration I hear as a therapist to children and adolescents is that parents connect a current behavior to subsequent future failure. This doesn’t inspire motivation or change and it can create shame.
Asking your child to select 9 of 17 activities they want to do at summer camp will cause you both grief. You can’t avoid all life responsibilities during final exams, but it’s helpful when parents delay those that can wait.
6. Help your child chose breaks that are restful and re-energizing.
At the end of the year, your child may be tired and feel unmotivated to exercise or get outside, instead choosing video games or social media (more than usual!)
Facilitating active breaks, even 10 minutes long, will help boost their serotonin levels and raise physical energy and mood.
7. Remember the basics: sleep, nutrition, hygiene, movement
Your child may not understand how neglecting these four key basics could quickly sabotage their focus and motivation.
Offer them snacks that increase their protein and fat in balance with readily available sugar/carbs they tend to consume on their own. This will support mood and focus.
Help them maintain healthy sleep and hygiene practices.
8. Don’t take their mood or comments personally.
This does not mean you accept abusive behavior (ever), but offering some grace on grumpiness goes a long way the last few weeks of school.
9. Avoid imparting big life lessons during final exams and project deadlines.
Wait to tell them the best way to organize is this, when I was young I did that, it’s time to rise up, etc. Their situation is likely very different than yours was, and they will struggle to draw parallels and apply them when pressure is high.
Find a time to share advice when your child is more relaxed and you can have a meaningful discussion about different ways to optimize organization and performance.
10. Ask more questions and give less advice.
Ask, “what can I do to help, and is there something I can stop doing that is annoying or frustrating?” Humility and openness during stressful times can disarm anxiety and increase the warmth of your parent-child connection.
Offer to be a part of planning their study/break schedule. Depending on their age and stage, your child may need you to create the plan or just take notes while they are brainstorming. Keep in mind what they normally need, and imagine they are more emotionally sensitive and a bit less organized this time of year.
Denver Academy is a private school for diverse learners in grades 1-12, located in Denver, CO. DAinspires and empowers diverse learners through student-centered, differentiated, and transformative education.