Whether your kids have recently gone back to school or are preparing to go shortly, it's never too late to start thinking about how we can make this year successful and low-stress, both for our kids and ourselves. With that, here are five things parents might want to stop doing this year in order to make it the best one yet... for all of you!
1. Your kid's homework. Oh yes, it's a familiar scene: your little one at the kitchen table, frustrated and unfocused on their math assignment that they just caaaan't figure out, Mom. Or their reading project that is SO BORING, Dad. It's all too easy as parents to want to jump in, give the answers, finish things on your kid's behalf because let's be honest -- it's quick. It's easy enough for you. It's a way to stop the complaining, and then your kid will get a good grade, right? This year, I encourage you to stop doing your kid's homework. What will happen if you don't? Maybe they won't finish it, and they get to learn a lesson in responsibility when their teacher confronts them. Maybe they'll figure it out on their own, and that's exactly what they should be doing. Or maybe they'll get the answers wrong and have a little learning to do. Lend a helping hand to encourage them in the right direction once in a while, but put the Number 2 pencil down, parents! You've already been through school.
2. Over-enrolling in sports/activities. Got a little dude who loves baseball and soccer? Great, sign him up for both if he's truly dedicated and interested in both sports. But I urge you not to fill up your kids' schedules with every activity and sport available just for the sake of enriching their lives. It's good to get them interested in a variety of things, but kids can also be overwhelmed with a full calendar of things to do with little downtime to just BE. Besides, all of that running around after school can be really stressful for you too as a parent. Stick with a couple of activities your kids truly love and devote your time to those, and don't collect guilt from other over planning parents because little Audrey isn't in gymnastics AND Tae Kwon Do AND the math club AND drama AND ballet like little Jessica next door. Jessica sounds like she needs a nap.
3. Obsessively emailing the teacher. These days, it's way too easy to shoot off a quick email to your kid's teacher about this or that. Is Jack doing OK today with his social skills? Can he be seated further away from Ian because they just talk all day and you KNOW Jack just isn't paying attention. Did he finish his lunch today or did he trade it for a Twinkie? Yeah. I get it, I've done it, too! But step away from the laptop, keyboard crusaders! Your kid is fine and their fully capable teacher will let you know if there's anything she feels you should be aware of in class that day. Remember back when we were kids? No email. How often do you think our parents were sending hand-written notes to the teacher? Let's let the teachers do their jobs and focus on the kids, not their email inbox.
4. Volunteering for everything. OK, this one is a touchy one. Let me start by saying that I firmly believe every parent should volunteer for something at their child's school. It's good for the school, your kids love seeing you and having your involvement and it just plain makes you feel good to help. That said, beware of over-committing yourself, too. If you give an hour of your time once or twice a month and that feels right, that's fantastic. But don't take on huge projects that will have you stressed out and overcommitted. Know your limits. Just because you want to be helpful doesn't mean your schedule always allows for it -- be prepared to have to say no sometimes in order to keep your sanity. Do what you can to help, but don't feel guilty for not running for PTA president this year.
5. Comparing yourself to other parents. So you've conquered the whole not-comparing-your-kid-to-other-kids thing, but what about yourself? Are you feeling guilty because you're not the Little League coach this year? You don't make your kid read for 30 minutes every night? You only brought a container of strawberries for the class party when the other moms made Pinterest-worthy tie-dyed cupcakes frosted with rainbow fondant they hand-rolled themselves? So what?! Give yourselves a break, moms and dads. Do your best, love your kids, let 'em know you're there and that you care. Do those things. You're great. Stop feeling less-than.
So this year, be a little easier on yourself and on your kiddos. Your kids and you will benefit!