Back-to-school stress is real. Our kids feel it. Parents feel it. The community feels it. Everyone has a little extra stress this time of year. As with most challenges, the real problem isn’t the stress; it’s your reaction to the stress. So, the purpose of this blog is simply to help you recognize that, yes, you are feeling extra pressure right now. Yes, everyone else is too, including your child. And yes, we are all going to get through this together. In order to help you do this as quickly and gracefully as possible I have included my top 5 ways to do so.
When you read that some of you thought I was talking about your personal expectations, and some of you thought I was talking about your expectations of your children. I meant both! You spend too much time on social media and expect both yourself and your family to be “post-worthy perfect” all the time. This is not only unrealistic, it is unhealthy. It’s ok if your child’s clothes are mismatched. It’s ok if they get a little distracted every once in a while. It’s ok if you have to skip the Starbucks line because you are running behind. You can’t do everything perfectly.
Do this. Make a list of the things that you WILL do perfectly. Every day. Every time. Then let everything else work itself out. Here is my list for reference:
- I will be 15 minutes early for appointments or meetings. Being late is unacceptable. (Remember this is my list. Some of you are late and ok with it, and that’s ok.)
- I will spend meaningful one-on-one time with each member of my family daily. (Notice there isn’t a set amount of time. Sometimes it’s hours and sometimes it’s the 10-minute drive to an activity.)
- I will spend at least 3 hours per day in deep work. That’s no distractions, pure concentration, and focused forward. (This is not email, social media, etc.)
That’s it. I WILL be perfect at those three items. Everything else has my permission to be less than stellar. Keep this list short on purpose. Once I put it in writing I immediately felt relief and far less stress, and you will too.
Plan your day the day before.
Now that you have your list of priorities it is time to time-block your day. This simple life-hack is a complete game-changer. Most of our stress is brought on by concern over the number of tasks we have to accomplish and not knowing when or even if we will be able to do them. By making a list of your priorities the night before and scheduling out when you will accomplish them you will immediately lower your stress level.
By giving yourself a “block” of time to accomplish a task (7:15-7:45 – Take the kids to school) you both reserve the time to do so and give yourself permission to be flexible within that window. In the above example, if you arrive at 7:18, great! Don’t make it there until 7:44? Great! See how that is much better than “I have to have the kids to school at 7:45.”?
Block out your entire day with all of your tasks. I’m talking about your entire day. Block time for meals, homework, walking the dog, everything. Then dedicate your focus to that specific task in that specific block. You will be amazed at your level of production and amazed at the relief you feel in knowing that everything will get done.
Teach your kids to be responsible for themselves. (Please hold the eye rolls.)
I’m not saying that 80’s parents were perfect, but there was one key skill that latch-key kids developed that our kids today are lacking: they could take care of themselves. By 10 years old most of us Gen-Xers could dress ourselves, pack our lunch, get to the bus, do a full day of school, get home, make a snack, do our homework, and get into all sorts of shenanigans WITHOUT a parent’s assistance. Now, I’m not advocating that a child should HAVE to do all of this without a parent. In fact, having an adult around would have been pretty nice. However, as a parent, please do not feel that it is your sole responsibility to provide all of this for your child.
Here is a list of things your child should be able to do on their own or with VERY minimal supervision from the Institute of Child Development:
Ages 3-4 (Pre-K)
Use handheld vacuum for crumbs or corners
Set/clear the table
Bring in light groceries
Wash plastic dishes
Elementary School (K-4)
Clean their room
Pack their lunch
Load/empty the dishwasher
Wipe down counters
Make themselves snacks/breakfast
Put away laundry
Take out trash
Middle School (Grades 5-8)
Take trash to bins and bins to curb
Prepare easy meals
Clean kitchen (appliances, cabinets, refrigerator)
Mow the lawn
Care for pets
Make complex meals
Help with simple home and auto repairs
Watch younger siblings
How much less stress would our lives had if we trained and allowed our children the opportunity to do these things? Parents, especially moms, tend to get satisfaction from “having” to do all of this because it makes us feel needed. However, we are adding unnecessary stress to our lives AND slowing our children’s development in the process. Give up some responsibility and allow your children to grow and help.
Allow your kids to be kids.
This is a big one. Your child isn’t going to be pure discipline and focus all the time. They are going to get distracted, be silly, and do dumb things. That is not only okay; it is an important part of their development. You must pick your battles. Keep them focused and on-task when they are completing home work. Help them to work efficiently when doing chores. When they have nothing to do let them do what they want.
Trust your village.
We all say “it takes a village” but honestly, most parents attempt to do everything themselves. You have to trust those adults around you to help your child develop. Your child’s teacher works with them more than you do in most cases. Please allow them to do their job. Yes, you know your child, but they literally spend hundreds of hours training in child development. They know how to teach, and they want what is best for your child. Are there a few bad apples? Sure. But these are the minority.
When they are doing an activity such as martial arts or gymnastics take a break and let the coaches handle them. As a coach I will tell you there is nothing more frustrating than a parent attempting to get their child’s attention or coach them from the sideline. At best it distracts your child. At worst someone could get hurt. Besides learning to take instruction from someone else is an important skill for your child to develop.
I hope this helps. Remember, you are not alone. We are all in this together. Championship Martial Arts is here to help you in so many more ways than just teaching you or your child to kick, punch, and defend yourself. Let us know if you have questions about anything in this blog or if you need some extra help.