10 Parenting Tips To Reduce End of the School Year Stress & Help Your Child Succeed

  1. Remember that your child will have lower frustration tolerance when stressed.
    • Meltdowns and freakouts increase even for kids who normally manage school well because the pressure to perform makes it harder to manage strong feelings.
    • It may be difficult or impossible for children to meet some of their original goals for the school year, and this reality may be weighing on them as the year wraps up.
  1. Maintain calm when they are stressed or anxious.
    • Try not to react emotionally when they say something extreme-“I’m never going to pass” or “you don’t believe in me.” Don’t enter a discussion debating those points and providing evidence that supports or negates their big feelings. They probably need a hug, space to vent feelings without your feedback, or maybe an encouraging comment “you’re working so hard, you’re going to do great.”
    • If you’re uncertain what your child needs- ask them if they need to vent or would like to problem-solve. Usually at this time of year they need to vent, and are more open to problem solving after they have vented first.
  1. Increased pressure and higher workload may decrease processing ability.
    • Your child may be more forgetful, less organized, or seem confused about simple things.
    • It is usually not helpful to have a parent point out this struggle when it’s happening. Instead ask how you can help, or let it go.
  1. Now is the time to offer logistic support to your child.
    • Rides, lunches, help with laundry, reminders, and facilitating fun breaks will help your child focus on school and feel supported.
    • Working hard through challenges is what builds resilience, but sometimes a little help with everyday life tasks during crunch time can facilitate growth and success.
  1. Don’t discuss the future or ask them to make big decisions.
    • Resist pointing out that if they procrastinate like this in college they’re going to fail etc. A common frustration I hear as a therapist to children and adolescents is that parents connect a current behavior to a subsequent future failure. This doesn’t inspire motivation or change and it can create shame.
    • Asking your child to select 9 of 17 activities they want to do at summer camp will cause you both grief. You can’t avoid all life responsibilities during final exams, but it’s helpful when parents delay those that can wait.
  1. Help your child chose breaks that are restful and re-energizing.
    • At the end of the year your child may be tired and feel unmotivated to exercise or get outside, instead choosing video games or social media (more than usual!)
    • Facilitating active breaks, even 10 minutes long, will help boost their serotonin levels and raise physical energy and mood.
  1. Remember the basics: sleep, nutrition, hygiene, movement.
    • Your child may not understand how neglecting these four key basics could quickly sabotage their focus and motivation.
    • Offer them snacks that increase their protein and fat in balance with readily available sugar/carbs they tend to consume on their own. This will support mood and focus.
    • Help them maintain healthy sleep and hygiene practices.
  1. Don’t take their mood or comments personally.
    • This does not mean you accept abusive behavior (ever), but offering some grace on grumpiness goes a long way the last few weeks of school.
  1. Avoid imparting big life lessons during final exams and project deadlines.
    • Wait to tell them the best way to organize is this, when I was young I did that, it’s time to rise up, etc. Their situation is likely very different than yours was, and they will struggle to draw parallels and apply them when pressure is high.
    • Find a time to share advice when your child is more relaxed and you can have a meaningful discussion about different ways to optimize organization and performance.
  1. Ask more questions, and give less advice.
    • Ask, “what can I do to help, and is there something I can stop doing that is annoying or frustrating?” Humility and openness during stressful times can disarm anxiety and increase the warmth of your parent-child connection.
    • Offer to be a part of planning their study/break schedule. Depending on their age and stage, your child may need you to create the plan or just take notes while they are brainstorming. Keep in mind what they normally need, and imagine they are more emotionally sensitive and a bit less organized this time of year.

If you have a child who needs support, or you have parenting questions please contact Lana at Lana.Gollyhorn@gmail.com or LanaGollyhorn.com.


The Screen Time Solution: Less Screen Time, More Life

Why You Should Stop Policing Your Child’s Screen Time 

I bet you’re tired of fighting with your child when screen time is up and they need to put down their devices. You’ve watched them disengage from life, choosing screens over experiences. The most sustainable and powerful solution I provide in my parenting seminars is this:
Instead of measuring screen time, try tech breaks:

– A tech break is a focused break from technology.  It’s a chunk of time- minutes to hours- to engage in friendships, nature, exercise, or creative interests.
-Tech breaks are completely free of technology, so your child is forced to find something else to do. This allows other interests to rise to top priority; once your child re-engages in a non-tech hobby they remember how much they enjoy it.
-Your child will be more cooperative if you collaborate on a specific schedule determined in advance (i.e. 1:00-2:30 pm, Saturdays or weekdays 5:30-7 pm) 

What’s the difference between tracking screen time vs. mandating tech breaks? Isn’t this just a matter of semantics?

-Children use numerous devices, concurrently. It’s logistically difficult, if not impossible, to measure actual time interfacing with a screen.
-Parents end up not recording screen time, and the child gets a false sense of how much time they spend using devices, being held accountable for less time than their actual use.  
-Parents become the custodian of screen time and the transition periods, off and on devices, are a continual source of conflict between parents and kids. 

Won’t my child say, “I’m bored!” and complain incessantly during their tech breaks?

-Tech breaks provide an opportunity for your child to be BORED, aka UNDERSTIMULATED. They aren’t used to this, so it’s initially uncomfortable.
-Tech breaks reduce sensory input, allowing children to have thoughts and feelings about their day, relationships, goals etc. instead of pushing emotions aside, anesthetizing them with technology.  
-Digging out the art supplies, or making plans with friends takes effort. Kids need parental support to get into the habit. Tech breaks allow them to learn (through experience) the value of a balanced life. 

If you want 2019 to be different, please join me in my February seminar, The Screen Time Solution.  You’ll learn how to stop fighting about screens, teach your child self-regulation, and re-connect as a family. We’ll build a family technology plan that is individualized to your concerns and priorities. Feel free to contact me if you have a child who needs support or you have parenting questions at:Lana.Gollyhorn@gmail.com.   

The Screen Time Solution: Less Screen Time, More Life
Lana Gollyhorn, M.A. Psychotherapist
TUESDAY, February 26, 2019

Hyatt Cherry Creek/Glendale
$65/person, $95/couple or co-parents

Lana Gollyhorn, M.A.
Child and Adolescent Therapist 

Lana is an astute clinician, with 17+ years of professional experience enhanced by a creative, dynamic, and interactive approach. Specializing in therapy for adolescents, families, and children ages 7+ up, She has been teaching Denver parents how to support healthy family technology use for over 5 years.

Back to School 2016: 3 Conversations to Have with Your Child About School

These conversation prompts will help you understand your child’s thoughts and feelings about school as the new school year begins. Try introducing each topic casually while doing other activities like walking the dog or setting the table for dinner. Your child will feel less pressured and more likely to engage openly.

Conversation #1

“Describe your perfect school year, your fantasy school year! Whatever you want, no rules. And yes, this includes magic/superpowers.” Your child will ask you for guidelines before proceeding. “Can I go to a different school?” “Yep.” “Switch teachers?” “For sure.” “Can I teleport?” “Of Course. Go!”

Q. What’s the point of the fantasy school year question?

A. It highlights aspirations and fears. It also opens the door to topics you may exclude in discussions (unintentionally, because you don’t have ESP), or issues beneath your child’s conscious awareness. This discussion removes the roadblocks (real or perceived) that keep your child from exploring their “best self”. The fantasy school year prompt reminds me of asking children in a Kindergarten class what they want to be when they grow up. They’ll say president or astronaut. But after a few years in school, children will self-censor based on negative feedback they receive from the media, parents, teachers, and peers. Fantasy school year taps into your child’s core desires, and gives them a chance share them with you.

Conversation. #2

“What went really well last year at school?” When your child is done talking, offer your recollection, “Remember, you had x, y, z doubt/fear, and then you did so well!”

Q. Why ask about successes last year, doesn’t this put more pressure on my child to be perfect?

A. This reminds your child of something they’ve already done successfully, plus it reinforces that you’re not solely focusing on improvement. Children think that you expect successes to be reproduced, and continuing the positive behavior becomes a part of their repertoire to please you. They may not try new things to avoid being accountable for them, or to avoid hearing about the success/failure in future conversations. They worry it’s one more thing Mom/Dad will “nag” them about. A child’s safest option, guaranteed 100% successful, is to opt-out on a challenge. When you ask about last year’s successes, you’re really saying this: I’m still proud of you, and I believe that you can, and will, have continued success. Exploring last year’s successes encourages your child to reach for new goals and build resilience through planning and effort.

Conversation #3

“What are your goals for this year?” Listen, and don’t autocorrect their goals. When they’re done, say, “Thank you for sharing that. What can we do to support you?” Later ask, “what do we do to get in the way of you reaching X goal? Sometimes we’re trying to help, but I know we might be annoying or get in your way.”

Q. If I say that I am “annoying” or “get in the way” as a parent, doesn’t this invite disrespect from my child? Won’t it feed the contentions between us?

A. Children and especially adolescents report feeing annoyed and put off by parents’ way of supporting or “helping” them. Children are often resistant to advice/support that revolves around “how” to do a task, like pack for a school trip or create a science poster. It may appear they are refusing to do “what” needs to be done. Children ages 11-14 have increasingly strong desires for autonomy, not to mention hormones influencing their mood and frustration tolerance. By acknowledging your child’s language and feelings at any age you show awareness and empathy, which deflates power struggles and brings you closer together.

Tips on how to support children with unique learning profiles in these conversations:

Q. What if my child gets stuck or struggles with verbal expression?

A. Offer the opportunity to draw a picture, a comic, or make up a play/song, or describe fantasy school year for a movie/fictional/video game character. You may need to lend your frontal lobe (the organizing part of your brain) to your child by offering categories. Avoid judgment-tinged prompts like, “don’t you want to get higher grades on math quizzes?” Instead, suggest fantasy school year categories that are as general as possible so your judgments and concerns don’t creep in. A few ideas: friendships, energy/mood, free time, lunch and recess, having fun, homework, healthful eating, grades, soccer/piano/etc., technology use/rules, family time, reading. Try saying “what about lunch?” or “some topics for fantasy school year might be piano, recess, homework…”

Q. Will these topics cause additional distress/pressure to my child with learning differences?

A. If your child has the additional challenge of learning differences, they may have long ago abandoned the fantasy school year. Either your child doesn’t know what it feels like to have a good year, or they are in a supportive environment and the struggle is such a part of their everyday awareness that they wouldn’t think to consider fantasy school year. So, this question can reinvigorate free-spiritedness and fun for children and adolescents with learning differences. If your child brings up wishing ADHD or dyslexia would go away, then allow them to speak freely. This doesn’t introduce a new concern, it just provides a safe and supportive space to say whatever is on their mind.

Questions, ideas, concerns? Contact Lana at info@LanaGollyhorn.com or visit the website for resources: LanaGollyhorn.com



Do You Have Seasonal Parenting Disorder? Summer Vacation and Your Teen, Part I

Junk food, messy rooms, and too much X-box. Parents may cringe when envisioning summer break with teens at home. Adolescents, on the other hand, wax starry-eyed about summertime: hanging out with friends, sleeping in, and reveling in no-homework bliss. Why the disconnect between parents and teens?

Parents often consider the summer months an opportune time for teens to “get ahead.” They could practice piano, read The Odyssey, or finesse present-perfect Spanish. Parents want to provide their adolescent children with a competitive edge, and the long summer break offers the ultimate sharpening stone. Why not optimize abundant time? Well, it’s a bit like spending your beach vacation doing taxes. Sure, you could do it, but it negates the point.

It has always been interesting to me that during the school year, parents ask me how to increase their child’s sleep time, reduce anxiety, nurture friendships, protect family unity, and create space for relaxation. Yet, when the perfect opportunity arises (aka summer break) parents often hone in on cognitive or developmental weaknesses and unrealized academic progress. Conversations buzz around resume-building experiences, volunteering, and internships. This is because these savvy parents understand that adolescents need support to actualize growth. The problem isn’t the subject of their concerns; it’s the timing.

Paradoxically, during the jam-packed school year, parents focus on recharging batteries, seeking refuge for angst-ridden adolescents. Summertime, on the other hand, mandates performance, productivity, and success. My inner teen says, “Seriously, what’s up with that?”

Summer, by default, can provide the reprieve parents earnestly seek for their harried teens during the school year. It’s a natural vehicle for social-emotional growth, because the activities inherent to summer facilitate friendships, boost self-esteem, and offer the time and emotional energy adolescents need to step back and reflect on their identity and aspirations. The concerns of the school year melt away in the summer, and it doesn’t require parental intervention. Hanging out may seem sedentary and unproductive, if not wasteful, but the time that teens spend uber-lounging is critical to success. Lingering poolside, walking around the mall (on a beautiful, sunny day, no less), and late night runs to Yogurtland are pivotal in providing tensile strength to their social-emotional skill set for the next school year.

Students make measureable progress when summer break is augmented with topic-focused learning. But it’s critical that parents help arrange a schedule that allows for ample relaxation and fun, every single day. Adolescents do best, and are more compliant, when parents collaborate with them on scheduling, so that obligations like work, reading, and sports are mutual priorities detailed by time and place on the family calendar. This provides specific windows of time that adolescents have to do whatever they want, including nothing. Parents and adolescents reap the benefits of summer when structure is balanced with large, nag-free, pockets of relaxation that are predictable and guaranteed. Not only does this help your teen practice good time management, it maximizes productivity without souring summertime’s reputation for unabashed R&R.

Next on Lana’s blog: The Four Most Important Conversations to Have with Your Teen about Summer. How, exactly (give me the talking points already), do you talk to your teen about summer? What about sex, drugs, technology, and defiance? Next week’s post will give you the parental play-by-play.

Ideas, questions, concerns? Contact Lana at info@LanaGollyhorn.com or visit the website for resources: LanaGollyhorn.com