SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 11, 2014

For parents, April is the busiest time of the year

Dr. Kate's Parent Rap
Dr. Kate Roberts

---- — April through June is that time of the year when parent burnout is the highest.

There are so many demands placed on children, families and, ultimately, parents over the next several weeks. When I look at my schedule for the week, it’s all I can do to talk myself out of a panic attack — and I haven’t done anything yet.

It’s like a two-month buildup that ends with a crescendo in June. It’s hard for parents to stay energized and keep their kids pumped for that long a duration of time.

What’s the ramp-up all about? Is it just our imagination? Are we just tired of keeping pace, or is it really more intense?

It’s real — the expectations are greater. Here’s what to expect and some advice on how to manage it:

Schoolwork: The high demands of the school curriculum increase. As a school psychologist, I know that school is more demanding from now until the end of the year. The early part of the year is review; after December, the new information that is introduced is greater and greater with more testing and projects, culminating in “finals.”

Extracurriculars increase: Plays, fundraisers, overnight class trips — they all culminate at the end of the year until the last day of school. That’s a lot of pressure in a 10-week period of time. For families with more than one child, demands increase exponentially by the number of children in the home.

Sports: It’s really true — as kids get older, their lives can appear out of control with commitments — if parents allow it. What choice should a parent make when two activities, like a sports practice and a birthday party, fall on the same day and time? It depends on the child and their age. A good rule of thumb is that one-time events take priority over regular practices. Keeping perspective is essential when making choices, and perspective means raising a well-rounded and balanced child.

Family commitments: Spring brings graduations, weddings and extended family events. Parents can prioritize and accept that families can’t be all places at once. Yes, the kids have to be committed to their sports, but not at the expense of other one-time or annual life events.

Parents need to prioritize their needs. Parents should not give up their own self-care routines in order to take care of their children’s needs. Make a list of health care priorities such as exercise, sleep and healthy diet that need daily attention. If you need to give a few things up in order to take on the extras in your children’s lives, give up other discretionary time eaters, like the monthly book club or something that you can do without until life gets back to normal.

Stick to a self-care routine. No matter what. And do not waiver! Make a pact with a support system to check in about consistency. At the first signs of veering off-track, don’t, even if the kids have to miss out on something. Parents who take care of themselves are more present when their kids really need them.

Plan ahead. Use a school syllabus and organization tools in advance to avoid being blindsided later by end-of-the-year projects that fall on the same week as the big sports games.

Prioritize for family and children. Before committing to sports and other regular activities, know what to expect. Consider limiting activities if they just can’t fit in all at the same time. Have a conversation with your child and explain the concept of “we can’t do it all.” A visual calendar with days and times will illustrate a parent’s position nicely when limiting activities.

Designate a weekly review time. Maybe one hour on Friday afternoons to go over everything that is needed for the upcoming two weeks. Allow time for planning and prevent being caught off-guard. It’s the racing out to Wal-Mart at 9 at night after a long day of running around that makes parents feel defeated and always behind.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You may want to, but don’t volunteer for every activity you’re asked to be involved in. If you want to take on an extra role at school or in the community, plan ahead and have your other responsibilities covered so you can do it well and without undue stress. Accept your own limits, and everyone will be happier.

Spend quality time with your kids. Kids are forgiving when they occasionally miss an activity as long as they have positive time with their parents.

Dr. Kate Roberts is a psychologist and parent coach on the North Shore. She can be reached at www.drkateroberts.com, www.twitter.com/DrKateParenting, www.facebook.com/Dr.KateRobertsParenting or www.pinterest.com/DrKateParenting.