Parents and Kids

How Parents Can Prioritize Early in the School Year

Children are back in school – and there can be a lot to do. For parents, keeping track of everything can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself sane.

Sep. 18, 2023 7   min read

Middle aged mother sitting on the bed with her daughter, listening to her teenage problems and trying to help her with conversation

The first weeks of school are often remembered with nervously excited children, dressed in new outfits and toting a backpack as they go to off to rejoin their friends and meet new teachers.

In the background of those memories are parents and caregivers who are often overwhelmed with everything that comes along in the first weeks of a new school year. Permission slip signing, classroom apps to download, forms to read and return, homework to keep track of, sports schedules to coordinate, and so much more.

With this flood of responsibilities in mind, we asked Monica Sirianni, LMHC, a Home-Based Crisis Intervention program manager with Rochester Regional Health, for some ideas to help parents keep a handle on what’s happening. As a person who works extensively with children, adults, and families, she understands how adults can prioritize their children’s needs alongside their own, and determine how to maintain a good balance.

Being overwhelmed is common

First of all, parents should take a moment to recognize that they are human beings and human beings get overwhelmed – and that is okay. Having periods of time in our lives when we are overwhelmed is natural and common.

There are steps people can take to prevent themselves from being overwhelmed, but it is a good experience to be overwhelmed because we can know what it feels like to reach that threshold – and then start to take the steps we need to take to regulate ourselves.

Knowing there might be moments of being overwhelmed and preparing for them can be very helpful. This might look like:

Once we are able to adjust our own expectations, we are able to model that behavior for our children. Expectations are for families, not just for children. When parents adopt a behavior such as putting phones away at dinner time, sticking to a specific bed time, or routine hygiene practices, it reinforces the importance of that behavior to everyone.

Long-term strategies for balance

So, what does ‘model behavior’ look like? Sirianni offers some practices that might help make parents’ lives less stressful and show their children how to live a full and healthy lifestyle.

Delegate responsibilities

There is a well-known saying that humans can do anything but can’t do everything. The same idea applies to parenting.

Being able to teach children how to live independently is important for their emotional growth and autonomy. Giving a child different ways to contribute around the house in the spirit of responsibility can help them grow and mature, and serve as a foundation to build that parent-child connection.

Consider making a chart for those chores or contributions. This will help to reinforce the responsibilities a child is taking on – and create a shared sense of accountability that doesn’t rely on one person shouldering most of the load.

Keep an open calendar

Whether a calendar is in a physical space at home or shared on everyone’s phones, this is a helpful way to show everyone what is being done every day – and who is doing it.

This practice takes responsibility away from an individual parent and puts it in a place where each person in the home is able to see what’s happening – and who is responsible for those responsibilities.

Allow some wiggle room

Yes, keeping a consistent schedule is important for staying organized. At the same time, becoming too rigid in a schedule can be constricting.

Allow for some cancellations as they are needed and give each person a little space to bow out of things when appropriate. If the kids have a lot of homework and the adults are working late and not caught up on laundry at home for the week, deciding to pick up take out for dinner can make everyone just a little less overwhelmed – even though it might not be on the schedule.

Meeting expectations

As parents start to try out some of these strategies, they still might find themselves asking, “Am I going to mess up my child if I’m not the most involved parent in the class?”

Similar to the feeling of being overwhelmed, parents should know they are not the only ones thinking about this idea of their child’s perception of them. Plenty of other parents are wondering the same thing.

A good first step to figuring this out is to ask children what their needs are, listen to them, and be honest about what your own needs are. If you assume you already know what they want or need, it might be different than what you expect.

“If parents and children both have very busy schedules, parents need to take the time to ask them what the most important things are that they can show up for,” Sirianni said. “Having that conversation at the dinner table, while driving to a practice or event, or sitting down in their room will give you both the time you need to listen and respond to one another.”

If you are unable to make it to an event or activity that is important to your child, talk it through with them and see how other family members might be able to step in and support them. Accepting help from others is not a sign of weakness or poor parenting.

“Be conscious of the expectations you put on yourself and the expectations others put on you. Our children notice how we handle them,” Sirianni said. “This is why it’s so important to create limits and expectations for our children and also make sure those things are understood.”

NEXT STEPS Take the Right Step for Your Mental Health

If you are feeling extreme stress that is interfering with daily life, finding a professional to talk with might be helpful. Whether you want to talk with someone about your thoughts or if you want to explore possible treatment, providers with Rochester Regional Health are ready to listen and get you what you need.

Learn How We Can Help You
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