We’ve all had those evenings where there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to do everything we’d like to get done. Many kids rush from school straight to extracurricular activities, and dinner becomes an afterthought as families scramble to make time for schoolwork and getting ready for the next day. With multiple children in a family, everything is multiplied. Enter Opal Octopus, whose busy schedule and inability to say no have her juggling too much on her plate. Opal uses these tips and strategies for handling overwhelm and avoiding burnout, while prioritizing self-care:
1. Learn to say no.
Invitations and commitments can add up quickly and tie up every weeknight and weekend if you let them, which can be both exciting and draining for a child. When you add in multiple children, it becomes even harder to juggle all the different events and commitments. Help your child be intentional with the activities he chooses and the invitations he accepts. Instead of offering an excuse, simply say, “Thank you so much for including us, but unfortunately we won’t be able to.” This will leave space for those activities your family wants to prioritize.
2. Leave room for unstructured, screen-free time.
Once you are able to say no to some things, you might find some unstructured time in your family’s schedule. In these pockets of time, encourage your child to explore a creative outlet, read, or run around outside. What does he truly enjoy? Support him in exploring new hobbies or creative outlets. Provide creative materials -- cardboard boxes, tape, and scissors go a long way! Boredom often leads to creativity! (After all, it’s how J.K. Rowling thought up the idea for the Harry Potter series, while riding on a train!)
3. Create a system for completing schoolwork.
Work with your child to create a plan to tackle larger assignments and study for big tests by chunking and doing a little bit each night, instead of cramming. When assignments are complete, pack them in the backpack to return the following day or submit them online before they are forgotten. Help your child avoid the habit of staying up late to study and complete projects. Beginning several days in advance will also allow your child to ask the teacher any questions that come up as he prepares for the assignment.
4. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to spend all your free time on it.
Sometimes a friend might suggest, “You did such a great job speaking on the school announcements. You should try out for the school play!” or “You’re really good at basketball. You should try out for the team!” It’s thoughtful and it feels good when a friend recognizes one of your strengths. Keep in mind, though, that it’s okay to say no to these suggestions and make sure activities line up with interests and are worth the time commitment.
5. Learn and practice coping skills.
When your child does get overwhelmed or frazzled, it’s important that he knows how to calm down. Encourage your child to practice various coping strategies to see what works; everyone is different and recharges differently! Ideas to try could include stretching, listening to music, slow counting, deep breathing, talking to a trusted adult or friend, playing with a pet, spending time outdoors, exercising, coloring, or journaling.
6. Establish ground rules regarding screen time.
Where will devices be charged? How often and how long will they be allowed to have screen time? Is the privilege of screen time something earned? Is it timed? Use apps to control or monitor screen time, be careful to set privacy controls, and consider using visual time timers to set parameters for non-academic-related screen time. Because the light from a device’s screen suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, encourage your child to put the screens down before bedtime so it’s not as difficult to fall asleep.
7. Eat healthy food.
Plan to eat together as a family and connect as many times as you can each week. With busy sports schedules, dinner may be on the run multiple nights a week, so get creative and intentional about spending that time together when you can.
8. After reading Opal Octopus Is Overwhelmed together, encourage your child to remember to R.E.S.E.T. when feeling overwhelmed!
R - Rest
E - Eat healthy food
S - Say no
E - Exercise
T - Take charge of your time
Learn more tips for parents, caregivers, and educators from School Counselor, Author, and Curriculum Writer Ashley Bartley at www.counselorstation.com.