With the official end of summer and start of school, come changes to routines, new schedules, and certain adjustments. This sudden change of pace for families can sometimes leave parents feeling like they are performing a difficult juggling act!
While some children will be excited to see all their friends together again, others may groan at the thought of recess being their only time during the day to play. Still, each young person is hopefully commencing a school year filled with tremendous personal growth and learning. By considering the three research-backed strategies below, parents and educators can help children succeed both inside and outside the classroom during this transition and throughout the school year.
Use control strategies to meet family goals:
With the share of two-parent households in which both parents work full time at 46 per cent in the U.S., up from 31 per cent in 1970, time has become a limited resource. Indeed, more than half (56 per cent) of working parents say it is difficult for them to balance the responsibilities of their job with the responsibilities of their family.
Taking family goals seriously and taking steps to achieve them can go a long way towards reaching the right work-life balance.
Just like companies set and monitor strategic goals for the year to position the organization favourably for the future, there are benefits to setting and sticking to family goals. To reduce conflicts over lack of time, research shows that employing control strategies to meet family goals can reduce stress.
These strategies include parents reminding themselves of the importance of their family goal in relation to other goals, such as the desire to be home for mealtime with their children and prioritizing this at the expense of not being able to progress on an important, but not necessarily pressing, work report. Another strategy is recognizing when progress on a goal is falling short and then recruiting help.
For example, parents may hire someone to help with household cleaning to free up time for goal-relevant activities with their children such as watching some of their sports games. Taking family goals seriously and taking steps to achieve them can go a long way towards reaching the right work-life balance.
Fit in time to be fit:
Modern life makes monitoring your child's participation in physical activity necessary. With the pervasiveness of technology, less spontaneous and unstructured play, and less active transportation to school and other places, there is a need to prioritize being active. Research shows that when parents are exhibiting healthy exercise habits, their children are likely benefit too. Being a positive role model is likely to be more effective than attempts to convince adolescents to be physically active.
These choices to be physically active may be life changing as well. A longitudinal study suggests that a physically active lifestyle starts to develop in very early childhood and that the level of physical activity in youth is likely to persist into adulthood. Even just a regular family stroll around the neighborhood after dinner, instead watching an extra episode of the latest and greatest television show, could be the extra daily movement you and your children engage in together.
We know parental attachments are vital in developing resiliency for children in their early life. But schools and teachers also have a critical role to play in helping their students develop the resiliency to deal with day-to-day problems. Implementing resiliency programs, such as the Penn Resiliency Program, "promotes optimism by teaching students to think more realistically and flexibly about the problems they encounter."
There is a strong case to supplement existing school curriculum with these well-being programs as an estimated 2.8 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
While we strive to balance our own needs and interests as well as sharing our time with all those we are close with, it's important to remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Fostering coping skills such as assertiveness, creative brainstorming, decision-making, and relaxation by focusing on young peoples' strengths and promoting positive social relationships can be part of the solution. In one study, 191 preschool teachers generally agreed that developing children's resiliency is important and that programs are an effective way to develop preschool children's resiliency. However, there was less agreement among the teachers that they were adequately prepared to implement resiliency programs and were not confident in their school's support for implementing these programs.
Educators should consider designing and supplementing their core-subject lessons in ways that also teach children how to cope and manage what is bothering them. One example of such a school-life skills partnership is The DolphinKIDS: Future-Ready Kids Innovation, Leadership, and Wellness Programs at Vancouver's West Point Grey Academy and Crofton House School.
While we strive to balance our own needs and interests as well as sharing our time with all those we are close with, it's important to remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint. There will always be those weeks that seem crazy busy. But, if we focus on what matters in our lives, elevate our heart rate habitually, and develop resiliency to deal with those tough times, a year of good physical and mental health is possible for us all!