7 ways to keep calm and carry on while marching into spring

 

Girl-taking-test

As February vacation comes to an end, students will enter what, for many, can be the most trying part of the school year. Beginning now until the end of the school year, academic expectations ramp up exponentially.

The biggest change is that the review is over and instead students will be asked to learn new information while being expected to apply it independently.

For students already falling behind, it becomes more difficult to catch up. Simultaneously, teachers are also teaching at a faster pace as they attempt to meet the benchmarks set by the curriculum and required for MCAS or PARCC standardized testing.

My practice tends to be cyclical and this time of the year is one of the busiest. Student and parent anxiety is heightened as a result of increased academic pressure coupled with many annual springtime stressors and increased commitments. Some of these include the prolonged winter weather that extends into March and early spring, lack of outdoor activity, increased winter sickness, and intensified social pressure with expectations that come with anticipated proms and end-of-the-year socials. And finally, the reality and subsequent disappointment of unfulfilled hopes as the school year begins to come to a close.

Here are seven ways to manage the impact of the end of winter and the beginning of spring stress on you and your children.

1. Accept that academics will be challenging. Schoolwork is significantly more difficult between March and the end of the school year in June. Before January, much of what is taught is review, but by March, students are expected to be flying though new material. Plan time for extended homework and lengthy, involved projects, and be more diligent about checking the school websites and the homework planner to keep apprised on what your child is facing and avoid unwanted surprises.

2. Address problems proactively. If your child is struggling, instead of getting frustrated, find a way to provide the help he or she needs. Examples of solutions include before and after school help from teachers, private tutoring and homework buddies.

3. Relax about standardized testing. Parents don’t need to do anything about MCAS and PARCC. Standardized tests help schools evaluate how well they are teaching students. The exception to this is if your child is in grade 10, and then he or she must score in the proficient range on the MCAS. If they don’t succeed the first time, they have two more years to reach that goal before they graduate. Parents need to be aware that teachers are evaluated on their students’ MCAS and PARCC performance, naturally raising the stress and the stakes for teachers, and not for students.

4. Stay Calm through spring events. Spring means proms, college acceptances or rejections, heavy sports schedules, theater productions, recitals, and many other commitments for parents and children. Without perspective and pacing, it’s easy for even the most levelheaded parent to feel overwhelmed. Calm parents will be better prepared to help frenzied children and teens manage the ups and downs that come with this time of the year.

5. Have realistic expectations. Be prepared to talk your children through their disappointments. With all spring brings, some things are bound to work in a child’s favor and others are not. Parents are not supposed to “rescue” children from their disappointments, yet they should be available to support children through tough times. If your child doesn’t make the high school baseball team or gets rejected by the girl they hoped to bring to the prom, or if they receive a “No thank you” from the college of their dreams, parents need to be emotionally available to buffer the hurt. This is not the same as rescuing your child from their pain, and yet it does mean being very present for your child or teen during tough times.

6. Recognize burnout potential. There’s a high chance of parent burnout with over-scheduling, especially for parents who are managing multiple schedules simultaneously. Between sports, spring plays and concerts, proms, exams and regular life all happening at once, it’s important to know your limits. Recognize what you can and can’t do and plan accordingly. It’s better to say no to something than to over commit and feel resentful.

7. Take care of yourself. Whether it’s playing cards with the guys or wine with the girls, a new pair of shoes or a trip to the nail salon, make self-care a priority during times of high stress. Otherwise you will get burnt out in the midst of all this school stress, regardless of your positive attitude. And always remember, it’s time-limited; soon it will be summer and all of this will be behind you.

 

Dr. Kate Roberts is a licensed child and school psychologist and family therapist on the North Shore. Questions can be directed to kate@drkateroberts.com or www.drkateroberts.com.

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