, Salem, MA


September 13, 2013

Dr. Kate Roberts: Back-to-school: Parents, take care of yourselves

I can tell when the school year has begun by the piles of paper in the center of my kitchen counter that migrate to the edges by mid-week. There are permission forms for pictures, school trips, buses, school lunches, band, student council, event reminder forms, teacher introduction and expectation forms, and demographic forms; one for each child.

This doesn’t include extra-curricular forms like team sportsmanship agreements, game and practice schedules, teammate information, uniform information, etc.

Most parents I have talked to are already feeling overwhelmed, and the homework, the projects and the sporting and extracurricular events have not even started. Parents, how are we going to get through this school year if the first two weeks have us exhausted?

In the start of a new school year we tend to look for a rebirth of sorts. But let’s face it, unless parents take some precautions, parents and children, entire families even, might end up burnt out by April. Like running a marathon, pacing is everything. For recent television coverage on this topic, click here.

As in previous generations, parents and their children feel pressured to keep up with the neighbors. Unlike in the past, parents may be losing ground instead of gaining it. For example, kids today have the upper hand in technology, and parents often rely on their kids to teach them the ropes. All of this combined weighs heavily during the long school year, and as a result parents are at risk for burnout. Recently I coined “burnt-out parent syndrome” to describe this growing phenomenon in parents today.

The antidote to this is self-care and nurturing, but many parents have lost the ability to take care of their own needs, too consumed with caring for their children’s needs and everyone else’s. How can parents care for their children’s emotional, spiritual and individual concerns when their own go unattended?

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