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Nurse Andrea: Helping Your Family Balance School & Activities

Today’s post is sponsored by Pinecone Pediatrics, a new pediatric practice led by Dr. Tammy Roesler and Andrea Cordell, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. The group is excited to welcome current patients at their So. McCarran Blvd. location – and new patients are welcome, too!

On the blog today, Nurse Practitioner Andrea (mom to two girls) shares ways for families to keep perspective and stay healthy during the busy school year.

It’s hard to believe it’s already the end of September!  School is in full swing and, not to sound cliché…but you can definitely feel the cool crispness of the air in the morning.  I often wonder where the time has gone.

If your household is anything like mine, along with school starting, so starts the extracurricular activities. The days now consist of greeting your spouse in the morning with “so, you take Child A here after school and I’ll take Child B there and hopefully, at some point, we will meet in the middle…”  Your dining room table has been replaced by your SUV – the back seat now functions as a place to do homework and serve something that, on occasion, will resemble dinner.  You all arrive home exhausted with just enough energy to brush your teeth and hit the pillow…knowing that you’ll wake up and start the process all over again tomorrow.

Extracurricular activities are important.  They are a chance for kids to do something they enjoy outside of school.  Extracurricular activities build confidence and self-esteem while helping kids develop physically, intellectually and socially.  Studies have shown that kids who participate in extracurricular activities are less likely to drop out of school and have higher chances of getting into that college of their choice down the road.

PineconePediatrics_OpenHouseHowever, school is important too – even more so than extracurricular activities.  I have to remind myself of that sometimes when I’m arguing with my first grader about getting her homework done so that we can get to her dance class on time.  Our kids’ number one job is to learn, and we parents need to make sure that success in school is everyone’s top priority.

Balancing demanding family schedules is something that comes up a lot when I talk with patients and other moms. There are a variety of websites and articles out there with tips and suggestions for managing extracurricular activities. Here are some of my favorite strategies for keeping your family’s schedule in check:

Check in on time management. Get together regularly with your children to make sure their involvement in extracurricular activities isn’t negatively impacting their academics. Discuss scheduling and time management to be sure they are not overwhelmed.

I think this is especially true for teenagers.  As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I have seen plenty of teenagers who are stressed to the max with school and extracurricular commitments. The pressure to succeed both academically and in other activities can become overwhelming. Check in with your kids, keep lines of communication open and watch for signs of stress such as difficulty sleeping, complaints of headaches, stomachaches and mood swings.

Divide your attention equally. Be sure that you spend as much time with your child going over schoolwork as you do in helping to prepare for a school play or practice for a ball game.  School = top priority, most important job, number one commitment, etc.

Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. A child or teenager who isn’t getting enough sleep is going to suffer in all areas – school, extracurricularly, and home.  It can also cause your child to get sick more often, as lack of sleep can affect their immune systems.  Keep to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible with consistent bedtimes – even on the weekends.

Don’t push in the wrong direction. Encourage your children to get involved in at least one club or activity of their choosing. If you push them into an extracurricular activity they don’t like, they may wind up resenting the activity and possibly you!

Remember that we have kids in extracurricular activities to develop their interests. As much as I wished I had pursued my career as a hip-hop dancer (insert sarcasm here), I don’t push that dream onto my children.

Foster friendships. Allow children to be involved with friends as part of these clubs to build lasting relationships. I love that extracurricular activities gives my children the opportunity to meet kids from outside our neighborhood and school.  I also love the opportunity it gives me to get to know parents and chat about raising similarly aged kids.  I don’t know about you, but my goal is get to know as many parents as possible, especially before my kids enter middle school – I have a feeling I’m going to need all the help I can get at that point!

Talk about good sportsmanship and build strong self-esteem. Being involved in extracurricular activities can sometimes mean losing or winning an event or competition. Help prepare your child for those ups and downs. This is truly an invaluable life lesson. Things won’t always go our way, and it’s important we teach our children how to face adversity and disappointment. Take the opportunity when it presents itself to talk to your kids about their feelings during these times.

See switching gears as normal. Don’t be too upset if your child wants to change activities. It’s important to try new things, and switching activities is normal. As frustrating as this may be after you’ve paid registration, uniform, and who-knows-what fees, it’s true – kids change their minds.  While I do think it’s okay to require kids to give activities they sign up for a fair chance, don’t be surprised if something they thought they would love turns out not to be their cup of tea.

I think the biggest take away from all of this is finding balance.  Balance is needed between school, extracurricular activities and home.  Last year, my husband and I lived for Thursday nights because it was the only night of the week that we didn’t have something to rush to after school and work.  We would sit outside and watch the kids play and just relax – we decided that one night a week at home just wasn’t enough for our family and had to let some activities go.  And I really believe that our girls were ready for the reprieve, too.  We now enjoy two nights per week at home – and wow, what a difference it has made!

Check in with your kids – are they getting enough downtime?  Are you all still getting a chance to connect as a family, or are you just crossing paths every so often on your way out the door?

It goes back to the beginning of this post, when I wrote that I often wonder where the time goes. But I do know where it goes, and it goes fast.  Our kids are only kids once, so make the most of it.  Find your family’s balance and make the most of this precious time!

For more information, here are two great articles I’ve found on balancing school and extracurricular activities:

Andrea Cordell, APRN, CPNP, is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She has been a nurse in Reno for more than 10 years, always working with the pediatric population. Andrea has been a CPNP since January 2011; she’d love to meet your kids and help your family stay healthy! For appointments, call 775-737-4707.
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