Lisa Seropian, Psy.D.

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It's Back-to-School Time: How to Have (School) Work-Life Balance

Posted on September 8, 2015 at 7:30 PM


So, you’ve bought the clothes and school supplies. You’ve gone to the Open House. Your kids are settling into their classes and subjects and are gauging the expectations facing them this year. And then there are the extra-curricular activities. By now, you are starting to feel the back-to-school stress and are likely asking yourself how you managed all this last year…

Well, here are some ideas about how to maintain some balance this school year and, thereby, lower the stress level in your family.

First, consider having kids participate in only one after-school activity, which involves travel, (such as sports) at a time. It may be hard to choose, but they will enjoy the process more – and so will you – if they aren’t over-booked and over-tired.  As to clubs, student governement and the like, for kids who are driven and/or competitive, guide them toward choosing one or two extra-curricular activities that afford opportunities to show leadership or creativity, rather than more. Quality is more important than quantity.  This holds true, in many cases, when it comes to activities for Juniors and Seniors in High School wanting to build their resume for college applications, as well.

Arrange to have kids do as much of their homework as possible themselves, without your supervision. It is my observation that parents commonly underestimate what kids can do on their own. When we explore this in session, it usually turns out that the parent is over-involved out of insecurity on the parent’s part. Children’s competence and confidence is developed by their learning what they are capable of on their own. Let them make at least one complete pass at their work before coming to you with any questions or problems.

Keep and vehemently guard your family dinners. The predictable structure family dinner affords provides security and comfort for your family. It is prime time for becoming close, staying close, and having some fun together.

Have clear power-down times. Set and maintain an hour after which family members (including the grown-ups) turn off their devices (many families find they need to collect them to see they stay turned-off), and just talk, read, or prepare for the next day. Likewise, on the weekends, have a power-down block of time, to play or do something fun together as a family. Again, this builds closeness, which cannot be obtained by being in the same room physically, but being elsewhere mentally.

Establish and stick to bed-times. Even if homework is not done, it is better for kids to learn to do their homework earlier in the after-noon or evening, get up a little earlier to complete an assignment, and/or discover ways to be more efficient in their homework, than it is to lose sleep over homework. According to most sleep experts and physicians, kids ages 6-13 need 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Teens need 8.5 to 9.5 or 10 hours per night. (And, yes, most American kids are not getting the requisite amount.)

Encourage play, exercise, and a social life.

Above all, as with most lessons learned within the family, do work-life balance yourself. The best way for kids to learn the lesson is to see you living it.

Have a balanced school-year!

Dr. Seropian


Categories: Parenting