5 tips for crossing the end-of-the-school-year finish line

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Spring brings the best of times and the worst of times. It’s by far the busiest sports season and with graduations, proms, college acceptances, end-of-school-year deadlines and summer vacation planning, the days are filled to the brim. 

Capturing this sentiment, blogger Jennifer Hatmaker dubbed herself “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever,” as she described her parenting like “limping towards the finish line called summertime.”

Her depiction of what the end of the school year was like for her went viral, resonating with parents around the country who are similarly burnt-out from their kids’ schedules, including everything from homework to sports to the demands of nightly reading. Hatmaker, a mother of five, appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to talk about parent fatigue, saying that by April she had called it quits.

I know exactly how she felt.

In today’s socially conscious, media-driven world, parents and their children feel a unique calling to be miniature super people, attempting to achieve perfection on several fronts at once. Striving toward being the best at everything is not working, and instead, parents and children are feeling the stress. The system is breaking down and Hatmaker’s innocent, though potent, public breakdown struck a deep chord for change.

This nationwide phenomenon or “burnt-out parent syndrome” is present if not rampant in every community and town. One local example of this is the North Shore preschool that mandated parents to bring only store-bought cupcakes to school parties. You may be thinking, why store-bought, processed cupcakes? The school administrators wanted to end the fierce cupcake competition between parents regarding which cupcakes were the “best” cupcakes. It seemed in this school, and I believe in many others, cupcakes were no longer just a dessert for celebration of a child’s birthday. Instead, cupcakes became a battleground for determining which parents were the best via their awesome cupcakes. My question is how many perfect cupcakes does it take to create one burnt-out parent?

In many ways the advancements of the last few generations have made solid parenting more challenging as the pace and demands of life have increased with 24/7 access to technology and management of technology.— Just Do It. Make yourself a priority and stay internally connected. Parents must find the time to meet their own needs in order to have something give back to others. No child benefits from a parent who is self-deprived while serving others. Taking care of oneself is being a good parent.

— Ask for help. Although we may be less inclined to knock on our neighbor’s door asking for a cup of sugar than our parents were, people are willing to help each other out if they can. Parents carpool, bring classmates together to complete homework or a project, do errands for each other, and trade off on babysitting. Because we are all so busy, most of us get it when someone asks for help, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

— Accept imperfections. Not all parents can teach their children math or how to change a tire, or know how to do the perfect art project or research paper. Find resources in your community to supplement where you are lacking in your knowledge as a parent. Accept your limits and life will be easier, even when it’s busy.

— Focus on strengths. Springtime events can trigger parents’ disappointments about their child. To avoid burnout and resentment, learn to accept a child for who they are and build on their strengths without trying to change them. Children need to be encouraged to find their own path based on who they are, and not on who a parent wants them to be. Children can learn coping strategies, such as adaptability, flexibility and communication skills, and they can’t change their innate temperament.

— Follow your instincts. Follow your gut and do what you think is right for your family, without succumbing to the pack mentality. It’s up to parents can go against the tide in the interest of meeting their child’s needs. Doing right by your child, trumps following the trends of the culture we live in.

Adhering to these five practices doesn’t mean that the final stretch to the finish line in June won’t be rough. It will be rough and you may even feel a little beat up at times. Just remember that all the pain now will lead to the arrival of the lazy, sweet summer, with endless days, gorgeous sunsets and no more projects.


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

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