Preventing End of the School Year Burnout

By Stephanie Hase
Owner of Kaleidoscope Therapy

The end of the school year is upon us and as a child and family therapist I brace myself each year for the increased number of inquiries from desperate parents as well as an increase in calls and emails from parents of current clients who are noticing signs of burnout in their children and as a result, drops in grades, an increase in behavioral struggles, and overall increased dysregulation at home. However, there are some things we can do as parents to support our child’s resilience and avoid the end of school year burnout.

  • Avoid Overscheduling – Anyone who has lived through a May with a school age child knows that there is an overabundance of possible commitments on top of regularly scheduled extracurriculars. To get ahead of burnout I often encourage parents to take a good look at the calendar and pick 1-2 things a week. This is helpful all year long as over scheduling is a regular culprit of increased anxiety levels and meltdowns. However, this is especially important as the school year comes to a close and children have fewer resources to pull from and are in need of increased free play time to counterbalance the work they have been doing all day at school.  And it really can be viewed as work. From the drain of figuring out social dynamics, in addition to academic and behavioral expectations, mixed with the significant amount of brain development that occurs during childhood and adolescence, our kids are working very hard each day and need a break. 
  • Sensory/ Outdoor Play – What should we offer in place of a full schedule of piano lessons, karate, soccer, gymnastics, and chess club? Plenty of free play outdoors and regular sensory outlets. Kids need to be able to move their body, explore outside, and have room for creativity and curiosity.
  • Shift expectations – Another way we can help support our children is to shift our expectations at home. We all have bad days and kids respond positively when they know there is space for their big feelings and their mistakes. When we meet our child’s frustration over too much homework with empathy, we help our kids feel seen and understood. We communicate that there is room for their humanity and in the process we can help decrease anxiety, offer co-regulation, and help them move through the difficult moment instead of letting it add to a decrease in their overall body budget for the day.
  • Prioritize Effort over Product – The amount of societal pressure and expectation placed upon our children is  high. They feel the pressure to get good grades, be a “good” kid, and win the soccer trophy. However, an extrinsic form of motivation has been shown to lead to less creativity, positive risk taking, and increased anxiety. Instead intrinsic motivation focused on seeing our child holistically with emphasis placed on the effort that they put forward rather than the overall product, grade, ranking etc. can be helpful. Recognizing that our kids are doing the best they can with the resources that they have available is a perspective shift that supports our kids’ resilience as well as the parent child relationship.

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