It’s a Stressful Time of Year!
Hello, Practice families!
It’s October. The newness of the beginning of the year has worn off. Kids and teens are approaching the end of the first grading period… which means that as parents, we’re staring down report cards and parent-teacher conferences. And many of you are in the midst of another stressful experience… applications for school placement (whether that is preschool, kindergarten, high school, or college!). Read on for thoughts from Dr. Stephanie Rooney on our team on how best to weather this stressor with equanimity and grace!
It’s that season. No, not Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas (though those are approaching!). It’s application season. Applications for preschools, private elementary schools, elite high schools and desirable colleges. A time of year when kids’ stress spikes (and parents’ stress does too!). As parents, we are eager to provide the best opportunities for our child. Here in San Francisco, like many big metropolitan cities, this can come in the form of getting into of highly competitive schools with amazing teachers and unparalleled resources. We feel the pressure, and our kids do too, making it the perfect storm of stress, uncertainty, and insecurity that can chip away at the happiness of our home life.
As parents, we might find ourselves struggling to guide our student through the application process. I’ve heard stories of parents taking their kids to work to try to find a quiet place to help their child focus on their high school applications… or simply coping with the massive stress of extreme calendar-juggling for two parents to attend numerous open houses. With such pressure to balance daily life demands and the extra time needed to complete applications and manage the ups and downs of the admission process, neither we nor our kids are likely to be at our best… which can lead us as parents to be more likely to get frustrated, argue, and nag.
What to do about it? First, take time to define success on your own terms. Resist parent peer pressure about what schools your child must go to, be informed, and trust your gut. Make space to consider the qualities you hope your children have when they leave the nest. How you define success is analogous to your mission statement as a parent. Without considering this explicitly, many families unwittingly default to the prevailing, narrow notion of success.
Second, debunk elite school myths. Make sure your children understand that there are many different paths to success. This is especially true for high schoolers applying to college. There are many, many excellent colleges, all with different attributes and personalities; none right for everyone. Help your child find the “right fit.”
Third, practice some of the key skills we teach here at Practice San Francisco. Do things to calm yourself down and mitigate your stress. Be aware that thoughts are not facts. Behind every big emotion lies a series of thoughts– many of which are not accurate… and even if some of them ARE accurate or truthful, focusing on those thoughts often is not helpful. It may be true that my child may not get into my first choice school… but this doesn’t necessarily mean that my child is doomed for a terrible academic and social experience. There is no way to know ahead of time, and ruminating/stressing out about it now isn’t going to do anything to change the way in which things unfold. If you notice yourself feeling stressed or upset, pause and ask yourself– what am I THINKING in this moment? Are those thoughts truthful? And even if they are truthful, are they helpful?
If you want more support in putting these tips into action in your own life (or identifying and defining your own values, and/or your expectations for success for your child), remember, we’re here for you! Our clinical team offers one-on-one support for parents around exactly these kinds of things– so reach out to us for help for you and your family this application season. We’re right there with you… and we’re also here to help.
P.S., We are considering starting an interactive online class/group for parents of kids of all ages. If this is something you’d be interested in, please click through here to answer a few short questions and help us shape this program to best fit your needs.