Saving students from stressing out over school

WASHINGTON – Many kids getting back to school are preparing to juggle the stress of high academic expectations along with extracurricular activities.

Parents should look out for signs their children are trying to do too much, says Theresa Johnson, principal of Chantilly High School, in Fairfax County. “Are they sleeping a lot? Are they irritable and cranky? Are they staying up too late? No child should be up until one or two o’clock in the morning doing homework.”

Johnson admits she doesn’t know how some children balance all the demands of academics combined with extracurricular activities, but says they learn how to become good time managers.

One way parents can help children get enough rest is to take away electronics at a set time each night. “They hit their technology all night long,” says Robyn Lady, the school’s director of student services.

She recommends that parents take children’s cellphones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices into their own bedrooms to charge each night instead of leaving electronics with the child. Lady says she does not think kids need to be on the Internet after 10 p.m.

Parents also are cautioned against over-scheduling students with activities they might not enjoy.

“A lot of parents and kids are sort of posturing and jockeying for college acceptance down the road,” says Lady, who also is in charge of school counseling.

Two or three extracurricular activities over a high school career is ideal, she says, recommending students choose activities they enjoy versus what they think might look good. “Colleges don’t want what looks good; they want you to be your authentic self,” Lady says.

Schools now offer myriad extracurricular options. “And if, authentically, you love being part of a performing arts group, or if you’re into sports, or in a club, or building a robot or part of a cyber security team – whatever it is – have fun doing it,” Lady says.

“It should fulfill you and energize you. It shouldn’t drain you.”

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