Our kids can only handle so much.
As parents, we want to give as many opportunities as possible to succeed. We place them in structured activities, enroll them in after school classes and extracurriculars, and take them to new places to gain new experiences. Despite our good intentions, we can go overboard and it’s only a matter of time until our kids finally reach a breaking point.
Similar to adults having burnout, child burnout is the product of continuous, unmanaged stress. They may be overscheduled with too many activities and not enough rest in between. Or they just might be overloaded from people, directions, and physical exertion. Burnout affects their ability to process and reflect on their day, that then snowballs into anxiety and overwhelm. Their motivation and interest in even their favorite things can drop.
We’ve been talking about executive function heavily for the past couple weeks, so by now you should have a grasp on how it all works. But, what does this mean for us as parents?
Executive functions aren’t concrete, fast skills to learn, but they do need to be pointed out intentionally as you go along. We’re not asking you to put something entirely new on your plate, but instead become more intentional with the activities and experiences you do with your kids.
I’ve been beyond excited for this school year since April. After reading The Most Important Year and the girls acceptance into our state-funded Pre-K program, I was determined to give my kids the best school experience ever.
I did everything I could think of to be ready. Their school supplies were bought in June. But the entire week before school started, I had the worst sleep. I kept thinking that I had forgotten something. That they weren’t prepared. That they were going to hate their big elementary school. That somewhere there was a mistake and they weren’t registered. It was spiraling black hole of worry.
It’s been about a month since my 5-year-old officially became a kindergartner. As much as I would like to say that I was fully prepared for this transition, I was not emotionally ready for the relationship changes between us.
For some reason, I thought this school year was going to be like the preschool ones before it. I’d get a “Love you!” and a quick hug at drop-off and then chat about his day afterwards on our way home. Yeah, I didn’t get any of that.
Instead, I had a kid who just popped out of the car in morning and stayed quiet on our walk from the bus stop in the afternoon. Like, what was happening?
Although I knew that his silence was most likely just him processing everything from his school day, it was still a hard pill to swallow. It’s the realization that my kiddo is growing up and these moments of connection with him were shifting.
It’s been a couple weeks since our kids started school. This is the first time my twins and Mary’s son are going to “big school” and a lot of stress popped up in some very weird places.
Luckily, one of my lifelines is my cousin Dani. She is a former elementary and middle school teacher with her Master’s degree in Elementary Education. She has over two decades of experience working with kids of all ages and in multi-age environments. Again, hooray for having a super-accomplished inner circle.
We gave her some questions about helping kids with their first couple days back at school, and things parents may overlook.