In a recent KidsHealth survey, almost 90 percent of students said they felt stress day in and day out. And when kids are stressed, their parents are as well. Some of the stress is from school, classes, etc, but just as much pressure can be felt after school. If your after-school schedule feels more hurried, stressful, and complicated than you would prefer, try the following the solutions to make life a little simpler for you and your child.
· Reassess the After-School Schedule
I'm sure we can all agree that each child is different - some thrive on hectic schedules, whereas others crave downtime. Listening to our kids is the only way we'll know how they feel. Take time to ask your child if his load is too stressful, or just right. The flip side of this equation is your personal situation. Perhaps more than children, parents feel overextended and exhausted. Managing kids, a job, transportation to sports, and of course, homework, is enough to put even the most organized and efficient parent through the wringer. If this feels too familiar, consider reexamining your children's schedules. Can one activity go by the wayside? Is there a sport or lesson that your child doesn't truly enjoy, but you insisted upon so that he doesn't miss out on an opportunity? These are the activities you might want to reconsider.
· Create a Predictable Schedule
Although each child in your household is likely to have a different schedule, it helps to create a family policy that homework must at least be started before leaving for an after-school activity. Getting a jump start on homework significantly reduces procrastination and stress later in the evening.
· Use a White Board
It's easy to keep track of assignments with a white board. Hang a large white board near an area that will be used for homework. When your children return from school each day, insist that they write their assignments on the white board. By using this tool, you or any other adult in the home will know of the assignments each child has for the day, what has been completed, and what is still left to do. When the homework assignment list is visible, unfinished work is less likely to slip through the cracks. This is a great solution for busy households.
· Conduct an Audit
Busy parents know that it's difficult to check every assignment each child has night after night. The Internal Revenue Service keeps taxpayers in line with random audits. You can do the same in your home by auditing homework a few times per week. Let's say that you have a family policy that all homework must be done by 9 p.m. otherwise privileges are taken away the following day. At that time, ask to see your child's homework. Praise him or her if the work is done. If it's not done, rescind privileges such as leaving the house after school the following day to see friends or watching television.
· Take a One-Hour Time Out
A one-hour time out is meant to be time away from anything that flashes, beeps, or has a screen. Choose 60 minutes every weekday (the hour immediately following dinner works well) and make that a mandatory quiet time. In our fast paced world, we're bombarded by loud noises which can cause over-stimulation, agitation, and anxiety. During this time, there should be no iPods, televisions, video games, computers, or phones. Instead, consider activities such as reading independently or together, doing a puzzle or playing cards. You may find that simply leaving craft supplies out encourages creativity. A one-hour time out also forces kids who would usually be glued to electronics to go outside to play or get together with neighborhood friends.
It takes a concerted effort to manage stress. Choose one or two of these strategies that might work for you and implement them for at least 21 days to see change. Remember, research shows that it truly takes 21 days to modify a habit.
Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a comprehensive provider of educational services in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Learn more at anndolin.com or ectutoring.com.