Just like we see in nature, the school year has cycles of ebb and flow. Certain times of the year will have a higher level of intensity no matter how many articles you read on avoiding burnout. So we’ve gathered some pearls of wisdom from our veteran parents of the University Model on how to manage the times when your demands feel more intense. Whether you’re a parent of elementary or secondary, or whether you’re a student yourself, we hope these 5 principles will encourage and equip you for finishing the year strong.
- Don’t blame yourself. While we all probably have room to grow in time management, this season of intensity is not your fault. You are not failing as a parent (or as a student). Your current reality has high demands that will take extra energy– physical, mental, and emotional. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself of what God says is true of you. You are fully loved (John 3:16), fully accepted in Christ (Eph. 2:6), not condemned (Rom. 8:1), and you are capable of hard things as you rely on the Holy Spirit to work through you (Eph. 2:10). He doesn’t do all your tasks for you, but He’s there to remind you of who you are and whose you are. That perspective can renew your mind so that you can do your best work. (Col. 3:23)
- Find your “oxygen mask.” What revives you? Is it time alone or time with friends? Is it a warm cup of coffee or a tall Sonic drink with ice? You may find it more difficult to make time for refreshments when you have more demands, but it’s usually more imperative that you do. Having a clearly defined [short] break can help you stay full steam ahead. Sometimes you can even be revived while doing your work. Maybe you change locations for your studies or play worship music throughout the house to keep you moving while maintaining a heart of praise. Find your methods of refreshment, and don’t feel guilty about implementing them.
- Use your resources. Sometimes when we get stressed, we start feeling like everything falls on our shoulders. But look up and around– what (or who) has God given you that you might not be relying on? For instance, if you are a parent of younger kids, you might ask another parent to watch your toddler for an hour while you work the harder stuff with your elementary student. If you have assigned stories to read, consider making them part of your regular bedtime routine. You can also allow your children more independence with chores. Even if not done perfectly, they will be learning valuable skills by pitching in. If you are a parent of teens (or if you are a secondary student yourself), take a look at your time and see what could be substituted for a week or two: maybe paper plates instead of real? Or maybe gathering with friends for study groups rather than social events? Allow your technology to be a tool that helps you rather than distracts you: set reminders and alarms while silencing the notifications that detract from your priorities. Using your resources means leaning on your community at home and at school. When you offer help and accept help, you will come out of the intense seasons with stronger relationships as a beautiful bonus.
- “Tackle the bear first.” What’s the most intimidating thing on your to-do list? Don’t put that off, but rather, do it first. Once you’ve “tackled the bear,” your day will feel less overwhelming because it won’t be hanging over you. You’ll avoid dread, which alleviates stress. For elementary students, a good morning rhythm is to eat breakfast, read God’s word together, and then hit that hardest academic task. For secondary students, especially older teens with several ongoing projects, it can be tempting to procrastinate the projects that feel overwhelming, but that will lead to more overwhelm later on. Try designating a time each home-day to make incremental progress in your hardest projects. For teens, mid-afternoon is likely a better time of day for mental agility, but it can also be more challenging to protect that time. Parents and teens will benefit from making decisions together and staying accountable for the hours needed for ongoing assignments. Working diligently over time will not only lower your stress, but it will also give you opportunities to ask teachers for clarifications or advice.
- Don’t neglect your time with the Lord. During seasons of stress, we need the peace of Jesus to rule our hearts all the more so! What goes in is what comes out. The beauty of spending time with God is that it’s not limited to one type of activity or time of day. You can keep your Bible open in a visible place and go to it throughout the day. You can play worship music, pray while you drive, meditate on Sunday’s sermon, or repeat verses to yourself. You can write down scriptures that minister to you and display them where you will see them, like on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, or as a background on your phone. When life is full, taking time to pray is even more vital. Whatever the method or practice, include the Lord in your thoughts and allow Him to work the fruits of the Spirit in your life. (Eph. 3)
Thank you to the parents who offered these tips for perseverance: Angela Self, Heather Brisman, Lisa Hernandez, Chelsie Clark, Dustin McCarty, Janet Tatum, and Andrea Chevalier.