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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Mrs. Brinker: Avoiding year-end student burnout

You might notice your kids seem exhausted or especially irritable as they get busier at the end of the school year.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — Summer break is so close our kids can almost taste it. If you have kids at home, you probably have a pretty full May calendar with school awards programs, athletic events and end-of-the-year parties. 

Sometimes you might notice that your child seems exhausted or especially irritable during this time. Our 13News Education Expert Jennifer Brinker offered some advice for helping students get through the end-of-the-year burnout that many kids tend to face during this time.

Dustin Grove: So Mrs. Brinker, can you define end-of-the-year burnout?

Mrs. Brinker: Burnout is a state of mental, physical, or emotional exhaustion. Burnout in students happens when kids are faced with ongoing stress or frustration with no chance to relax and recharge. 

We might look at some of the things you mentioned as positives, though, and think, “How are they that stressed or frustrated about class parties or playing a sport they love?” But the truth is kids crave routine and when there is a lot on their plate, even if it is fun stuff, it can really disrupt that routine and take its toll.

Dustin Grove: We mentioned some activities that can be piled on at this time of year. Is there anything else in school that is stressing kids out?

Mrs. Brinker: Absolutely. We have had to spend so much time doing standardized testing, which can also be known as high-stakes testing. 

Think about that phrase “high-stakes testing.” Just saying it is stress-inducing. When you add that to finals for the older students, graduations, several athletic seasons coming to an end, transitions happening from potentially one building to the next at the end of the year, the list can go on and on. It just all adds up and your kids are feeling it.

Dustin Grove: So what would be some signs that your child is burned out?

Mrs. Brinker: Your child might display some very typical symptoms like seeming especially irritable. They might seem detached or apathetic, or might just be lethargic. The important thing to remember, though, is that some students can have a very quick onset of these signs or might bottle it all and not show anything concerning until they have a meltdown, when they might cry or lash out.

Dustin Grove: So what do we do if our kids are struggling with this?

Mrs. Brinker: Try to keep routines as intact as possible. I know it can be tough with crazy schedules, but make an extra effort to have a meal together as a family or take some time to just spend together unplugged. Whatever has been a tradition for your family, try to keep.

Feel free to say "no" and eliminate optional activities. Some of us overcommit ourselves as parents, so we can’t be shocked when our kids do the same. Your son has a final in chemistry, a baseball game the next day, and you are invited to two graduation parties for cousins on the opposite side of town that next day.  

We have to allow for ourselves and for our kids to realize when enough is enough and not burn the candle at both ends.

Dustin Grove: Final advice?

Mrs. Brinker: The best way to know what is going on with your child is to talk, so make sure you always keep those communication lines open. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while we sometimes think of only severe mental health issues with this, we all could use some help sometimes.  

Self-care and rest are critical for all of us, so keep yourself well.