The time before the holidays for your younger kids is usually filled with fun and joy. School projects focus on the season while in class work often seems more like play. There are concerts for which to prepare and pageants that require practice before the big debut.
In sharp contrast however, the return back to school for your middle school, high school and college crew is often not so jolly. Faced with the end of the semester crunch, your teens probably have little time to enjoy the holiday cheer. There are projects to complete, deadlines to meet, and of course the dreaded finals. Who has time to rejoice when you have a ten page paper due in one class and a massive research project due in another?
As a parent, you may feel powerless, especially if your teens are away at college. You wish you could wave a magic wand to make it all okay. While you have much empathy and compassion for their stress, a part of you feel frustrated. The urge to say, "If you had started that project weeks ago when it was first assigned, you wouldn't be in this situation," is strong. You of course realize that this is not the type of encouragement that would be helpful right now.
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So what can you do to show your support and reduce some of their stress during the pre-break crunch? Here are some clues:
1. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. Of course this does not mean you offer to write that paper for him, although it may sound tempting.
2. Suggest she make a schedule. Organization can really cut down on stress. Even if she is away at college, talking with her about how to structure her time may provide more help than you realize.
3. If he seems particularly irritable try not to take his attitude personally. Stress can turn the kindest kid into a monster. This does not mean you should tolerate disrespect, it just means you may need to give your teen some space and time.
4. If she tells you she doesn't want or need your help, LISTEN! You may think you know what it is best for her, and in actuality, you may be right. She is under enough stress right you do not want to contribute to the pressure.
5. Creature comforts go a long way in reducing stress. Make him his favorite meal; bring her a cup of hot cocoa, those marshmallows and/or whipped cream, you added may mean more than you realize. While you can't take away the stress, sometimes it is the little comforts can ease some of the tension.
6. Don't let him see YOU sweat. Stress begets stress. Try not to let on that you feel his pain. While a little empathy and understanding can go a long way, sympathy pains do not. If he senses that you are feeling stressed for him, it will probably make him feel tenser.
7. Create an environment of calm. Bake some holiday cookies, light some fragrant candles, research indicates that an aromatic atmosphere can really defuse distress. If your teen is away at college, send her a package of aromatic goodies.
8. Remind him that all his hard work will pay off. Be sure to let him know how proud you are about all his effort and focus. What you say really matters. He appreciates your support and validation.
In a few short weeks she will be opening gifts, enjoying holiday treats and rejoicing. For now, your stress is what gifts to get a teen who seems to have everything!
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