Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Cure for Spring Fever

Most of you know that I'm a teacher by day, writer by night. And while I try to keep this blog about all things writing and books, every now and then a teacher post seeps in.

The hardest week to teach is not the first or the last week of school. It's the week before spring break, especially when the winter has been warm and the kiddo's haven't had a "snow day break".  Why? Spring fever.

The elementary school I work at is exceptional, but even the best of schools have issues crop up around this time of year. Children that are never problematic suddenly start saying ugly things to their friends, homework swirls the drain, keeping everyone on task is difficult at best, and even the most sunshine-and-daisy teachers have a bite to their tone.

Spring fever isn't pretty. Kids contract the disorder with the start of soccer, baseball, and just about every other outdoor sport. It gets worse when daylight streams to bedtime, bike tires are re-inflated, and pool passes are purchased. Symptoms include sleeplessness, restlessness, an abiding lack of energy, especially for school, and an overall less-than-stellar attitude. At this point in the affliction, the kids are exhausted and on each others last nerve. Between the start-up of sports, the winding down of dance and gymnastics and other winter activities, more homework, and review for the dreaded upcoming testing window, they are literally sick and tired of school.

The cure? Time.

Here's a little teacherly advice. This spring break allows your children to unwind. Have a few church friends over, or visit cousins they don't see often, but, if possible, try and give them a break from their classroom friends. Plan a family trip to the zoo or a state park. They aren't' high-cost activities, but they have a high bang-for-your-buck regarding quality time. Let your children talk. Be an avid listener. Even when they explain in great detail why Superman could beat up Batman. Show them through your actions that you think their opinions are important and you value what they have to say.

Please don't allow the internet, television, PlayStation, X-box, PSP, or any other infernal device serve as a babysitter this week. Do something different. They get enough tech/TV time during regular school days.

Last but not least, the other extreme is just as bad. Taking mega vacations, packing every second with activities, and going to high-stress spots that are supposed to be "fun" is almost torture for children. I view this as the "try-too-hard" vaca. These well-intentioned parents plan for months, spend money they don't have, and are now determined that come hell or high water everyone is going to have the time of their lives. Kids that come back from these breaks are exhausted and say things like "finally, I'm so glad we're back at school".

After years of observation, I've found the best cure for spring fever is a low-key approach to the break. Have a few tentative planned activities for those days when the kiddo's are bored, encourage creative play over technology, put the kiddo's to bed at a reasonable time and let them sleep until they naturally wake. Take note of how often your child laughs. Smiles, giggles, and snickers whisk away stress. Play silly board games and have fun with your children. You'll have a great time, and they'll come back to school rejuvenated and ready to end the year on a positive note.