When my oldest son was in 6th grade, he came to me late one Sunday afternoon and said he felt nervous, but he didn’t know why. The Sunday night blues had struck, and I was surprised by it – eleven years old seemed too young for that Sunday night pit in your stomach. I was sad to admit that he had so much anxiety at such an early age.
When we discussed it, I realized he did have a lot to be anxious about. He had his sports that he loved and was already feeling the pressure of wanting to make the school teams. He was making his Confirmation at church, which was time-consuming and had to be managed. He had a big project going on at school that required group work, organization, and creativity.
Finally, into this busyness, was the realization that school was starting to count. In middle school, the math class you took in 7th grade would have ramifications for your math classes in high school. As we sat and talked about it, I realized that it was a lot for an 11-year-old to manage, and I had to admit, too, that some of his anxiety was coming from me, and my sometimes unrealistic expectations for him.
After doing some reading, I realized my son was not alone in his Sunday night anxiety. Experts have seen anxiety levels rising in students, and that concerned me. I wanted my son to learn to how to manage things before the anxiety got the best of him.
I knew that one way tutors help anxious students to focus and relax is to help them make a plan. For me, planning and preparation are keys to confidence and calm, and so I started my son on a simple checklist. Together we reviewed his activities, assignments, and our expectations for it all. Those conversations helped me to realize that my kids have a lot more to do than I did when I was their age.
Keep Expectations Grounded in Reality
After we began doing The Weekend Checklist, I realized that my parental expectations for my son were probably not realistic given the constraints on his time. I also realized that my unrealistic expectations were contributing to his spiraling anxiety level.
When I take the time to plan with one of my stressed kids, it is so much easier to understand the pressures they are feeling. Just seeing that crazy-busy-to-do list on paper is enough for me to ratchet down my expectations. When I help my kids complete their weekend checklist, I’m not only teaching them how to manage their time, I’m also seeing a window into their pressure-filled lives. It is a golden opportunity for me to show some mercy and compassion.
Here’s how we do it:
- School planner updated to include
- All tests/quizzes/projects written down in the planner
- Extra-curricular activities assigned to times in the planner
- Be realistic about time. For example, sports practice time should include shower time and travel time.
- Study ahead completed
- Vocabulary, spelling, math facts, reading logs
- Big projects worked on
- It is helpful to break these into smaller pieces and assign those smaller components to times in the planner.
- Room/Desk/Backpack ready for the week
- Wardrobe ready
- School clothes clean and ready
- PE uniforms clean and in backpack
- Sports uniforms/equipment clean and packed
- Musical instrument with your backpack
- Unplug and charge up
- Be screen-free and get some fresh air!
Eliminate the Sunday nights blues...and the Monday morning crazies. Download your free copy of The Weekend Checklist now.
Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.