Read our post on this topic last year, here.
Let’s face it: last year was one of the most exhausting of any of our lives, your dancer’s included. Now, as a new school (and dance!) year begins, it will be easier than ever for your dancer (and you) to feel overwhelmed, tired, and just plain burnt out. While adults have to shoulder the challenges of their own responsibilities, our day to day lives have less change month to month, no matter the season. In contrast, kids are learning, changing, and growing every day, making each new school year a completely new adventure—all while trying to figure out who they are in the
It’s hard to imagine with the remove of age the incredible stress our dancers go through as they grow in these tumultuous times, and that’s why we wanted to take a moment to talk about back to school burnout. It’s real. It can transform your energetic, happy kid into a someone else: lethargic, disinterested, and combative. And it may be coming to your household soon (if it hasn’t already arrived!) So what can you do to help?
The first steps to any problem are always the same: recognize the reality and breadth of the issue, make a plan to help fix it, and stick to the plan. First off, burn out during (and especially at the beginning of) the school year is completely normal, to the point that innumerable psychological studies have researched it. These studies largely agree that not only is burnout a problem across the world, it can negatively affect a student’s academic achievement throughout their lives--so the earlier it’s mitigated, the better. When left untreated, it’s been found to increase a student’s general exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of inadequacy. It’s never too early to help your child learn how to better mitigate stress, especially as it may improve the quality of their entire life ahead of them. Now that we can see how big the scope of the problem is, let’s focus on how to fix it.
Above and beyond all other interventions, exercise has been found to be the best possible practice to combat back to school burnout, across the board. We’d, of course, recommend Irish dance for something that’s a fun, culturally enriching social outlet that helps builds other stress-mitigating habits like goal setting and confidence (read more about Irish dance’s benefits here,) but movement of any kind truly is the key. 2.5 hours—which is less than a half hour a day—of any moderate movement-based activity a week is the standard recommended by medical organizations across the board. Beyond the most obvious reason--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. At the same time, exercise classes (like dance!) promote community and social development, while also promoting better sleep habits when your kids get home.
So, we have at least one, big idea of how to combat the burnout—but what is that isn’t enough? There’s a ton of tips to integrate into your family’s life from experts all over the world, and it’s all about finding the right combination for you and your family. Here’s a few to try to integrate, but feel free to leave your own, more specific solutions in the comments!
1) Commit to a reasonable number of activities, but don’t say yes to everything.
2) Be flexible, but be clear about your expectations.
3) Keep as regular sleep schedule as possible.
4) Eat a balanced diet.
5) Forge open communication within your family.
6) Encourage asking for help whenever you need it.
7) Put a limit on screen time.
8) Make sure to make time to relax and decompress.
9) Set goals and celebrate achieving them.
The last part of the plan might be the most important: whatever plan you make, stick to it! The literature is clear on this: kids thrive when given a routine to follow. Simply put: the big, big world becomes a little less overwhelming when you help your dancer understand exactly what’s coming next. And it won’t just help now: regularity in daily and weekly routines has been proven to produce better adjusted and more successful adults across the board, in all fields. Other 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.) Routine is like building a structure for your child to grow into—it’s up to you to determine what that structure looks like.
And, just as importantly, don’t forget to include yourself here too! Adults spend so much time taking care of others, it’s easy to push our own wellness to the back--but a parent’s mental health has been determined to have a direct effect on their children. Fighting against that burnout is a family endeavor, and all the above tips apply to our SRL parents as well! We look forward to seeing you all back in the studio, hopefully armed with some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible for the entire SRL community!
This post is part of a series. Read our last 411 post, where our dancers tell you why they love SRL in their own words, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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