* Striking a Balance – Time Management for a New School Year

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 29, 2017 –

With most children already back at school for a new year, many families will find themselves in a struggle for the ages: wants versus needs.

Many families have difficulty finding a balance between work and play.  But what if the struggle is between your child’s academics and their extracurricular activities?

It would be hard to find a parent who would say academics aren’t important, but at times it seems academics are in direct competition with having fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for kids to have fun.  They need active and sensory experiences to help them grow and develop.  Extracurricular activities can also be a great way to develop skills.

But if your child’s academics are suffering or your child is upset, tearful, moody or more anxious than normal, it’s time to take a hard look at your family’s schedule.  And if you’re spending more time in the car than you do in your home together as a family, it’s definitely time to step back and reassess your priorities.

 What is your child doing? Do they have one activity, or two, three or four?  How many hours a day are they away from home?  How many nights a week is your family away from home?  Is your child getting enough sleep at night?

A healthy balance is needed between school and extracurricular activities.  At this point in the year, your family will soon have a good idea of how much homework your student is going to receive daily.  Evaluate what your child and family can handle.

For reference, according to Dorothy Sluss, President of the U.S. Chapter of International Play Association, for every week of intensive activity, three weeks of less structured time and activity are needed to maintain a healthy balance for children.

If your child’s grades are not what they used to be, or if they are having more incomplete or missing work, it may be necessary to back off the wants and focus on the needs.  It is OK to drop an activity due to falling grades or place a limit on how many activities your child is able to join to keep a healthy balance.  Putting academics ahead of sports, scouts  and dance is OK too.

We have a culture that encourages and supports many sports and other activities.  Encouragement is great.  The issue is when children feel pressured to commit and join.  It is OK to say no.  It is OK to put your family’s needs first.  It is OK to limit the number of activities your family is involved in.

If you have concerns for your child or need further ideas on how to strike the right balance for your family, please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or to the Youth First School Social Worker at their school. We are here to help.

Help Children Manage Time, Lower Stress

Time management

By Alissa Eastham, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 23, 2016 –

Whether your child had a leisurely summer or the past few months have been filled with activities, it is often an adjustment for students and their parents when the first day of school arrives.

Some parents may be relieved that school is back in session, others are concerned or worried. Students may feel excited or anxious about seeing friends, meeting teachers, receiving homework and starting new activities.

Although stress can be beneficial (such as when it motivates us to complete tasks), it warrants our attention most when left unchecked. We can experience stress in a variety of ways, and stress may manifest itself differently in children and teens.

Physical symptoms of stress can include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, stomach ache, chest pain, muscle tension and pain, headaches, indigestion, nausea, increased sweating, weakened immune system and back and neck pain.

Emotional symptoms can include decreased motivation, increased irritability and anger, anxiety, depression or sadness, restlessness and inability to focus.

You may also notice behavioral changes as a result of stress, such as constant thoughts about stressors, eating too much or too little, social withdrawal, nail biting and drug or alcohol use.

The return of the school year can be an exciting and stressful time, and as it kicks into full gear, it can be helpful for both parents and students to manage their time in order to manage stress. The following tips can help.

Use a planner. This can be a hard copy or digital version on your phone or computer. Having a way to organize tasks and activities can help you remember what you need to get done. Most schools offer planners to students at a low cost.

Prioritize tasks. Using a planner will also help prioritize time, tasks and activities. Writing things down helps your child remember them. It also gives you and your child a list to help determine what is most important and what can be done quickest.

Break larger tasks into smaller ones. If students become overwhelmed with several assignments, it can be helpful to break down the homework into smaller, more manageable parts. This can reduce anxiety and give your child a starting point.

Limit distractions such as electronic devices. This will help your child focus on the task at hand. It is also helpful for students to have a dedicated study space where distractions are limited.

Schedule more time in between tasks.  Avoid rushing from point A to point B. By purposefully scheduling more time between tasks, you can reduce your stress when a meeting runs long or you find yourself stuck in traffic. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early.

Create boundaries. Students can be involved in too many activities, adding stress. Are they only getting involved because others expect it? Encourage them to decide what’s most important and consider cutting out unneeded tasks and activities.

Stress can be positive when it motivates students to study for tests or complete homework assignments, but we often don’t notice it until it’s caused a problem in our lives. Consider how you use your time and what can change so that your family will reap the benefits and have a less stressful school year.