Friday, September 2, 2011

Managing Stress - Strategies for School Year Success

            A few years back, I had the pleasure of working with Anna, a bright and lively second grade student. This child was a free spirit. She enjoyed being active and had a lot of pent up energy to release after a long day of school. Each day she'd come home and run all over the house. Getting her to sit down and do her homework seemed like an impossible task. The stress it caused as everyone in her family worked to get her to sit and focus was overwhelming. By the end of each evening, everyone was emotionally and physically exhausted. And guess what?  The homework still wasn’t done.
            As I met with Anna, and her family and considered their situation, I knew we had to create a system that would work for everyone and reduce the stress and effort it would take to get Anna to cooperate. But before we could move forward with a plan, we needed to define our expectations.
            Did we expect Anna to sit and do 30 minutes of homework?
            Did we expect her to complete her assignments without a break?
            Based on her temperament, it was clear that we'd need to accept small, focused amounts of time sprinkled with an outlet for physical activity in between.
            As we devised our plan, we included a healthy, nutritious snack that she could enjoy while she was working. We also created a chart that outlined her new afterschool routine so she could see what we expected. From the chart, she'd know she would first have to wash up when she came home, then she could spend a few minutes chatting with her mom, then her homework time would begin.  The chart had pictures of her doing activities, like jump roping, dancing or jumping up and down in between chunks of homework time so she could clearly see and look forward to her breaks.
            After a few weeks on her new schedule, Anna experienced a sense of control as she learned to manage her responsibilities more effectively. The work became less overwhelming and the stress level in the home went down significantly.

Adina Lederer
ACPI Certified Coach for Parents and Families
Page 108

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