No matter how many years out of school I am, I’ll always think of the new year as starting in September. Somehow, New Year’s Eve has nothing on the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, new books in a new backpack, and that outfit that’s just a little bit too hot for the weather (every year! I never learned.) But, for everyone still actually school-age, especially in the year 2020, there’s also the downside to all the excitement: having to learn a new routine after months and months of routine-free fun.
Your happy kid, so full of energy all spring and summer, suddenly doesn’t want to do anything. This is the year you signed them up for new activities they’d been begging to try (maybe even an Irish dance class?) and all of a sudden they have no interest. So, what now?
The back to school burnout is real, and probably worse this year for the obvious reasons. The first step is simple: recognize it’s happening and understand that it’s normal. And, as much as it’s normal, remember the adage that’s now backed up by a bevy of scientific research: children need routines. Regularity in daily and weekly routines has been proven to produce better adjusted and more successful adults across the board, in all fields. Notable, studied benefits include improved attention span and self-control, better time management, decrease in anxiety, better social skills, a higher level of emotional intelligence, better academic performance, and even increased employability in adulthood (among others.)
Expert tips about how to combat resistance to the new routine and avoid the worst of the burnout are pretty standard across the board: Commit to a reasonable number of activities, but don’t say yes to everything. Be flexible, but be clear about your expectations. Keep as regular sleep schedule as possible. Eat a balanced diet. Forge open communication within your family. Encourage asking for help whenever you need it. Put a limit on screen time. Make sure to make time to relax and decompress. Set goals and celebrate achieving them.
One of the most constant and repeated tips? Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. While we at SRL recommend Irish dance classes as the best way to get up and going, 150 minutes of any moderate movement-based activity a week is the standard recommended by every medical organization. Why? Besides the obvious—physical health—exercise has been proven to help decrease stress and increase endorphins (among other happy-brain chemicals,) as well as boost overall energy and mental acuity. Simultaneously, exercise classes promote community and social development, while also promoting better sleep habits when your kids get home. That’s right, ironically, just getting them to the class they’re reticent to go to will help with everything else!
Lastly, and just as importantly, remember that self-care isn’t just a buzz word, it’s how parents can continue to be great parents! We all need to take moments for ourselves throughout the day or the kids won’t be the only ones burnt out. Besides, let’s be real…you deserve it.
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