We live in a society where high achievement is expected of our children by parents, teachers and administrators. The child's reward? Enrollment in high performing schools with rigorous academic programs and schedules. Case in point, Chicago High School for the Arts (Chi-Arts). Why talk about this school? Because I currently have a client who attends Chi-Arts and I have a relative who graduated from Chi-Arts several years ago.
The academic pressure on Chi-Arts students is tremendous. Imagine being a teenager with a school day that begins at and ends at , thru . The first 6 hours are devoted to academics while the last 3 hours are devoted to the arts or conservatory (dance, music, visual arts, theatre). These students are being trained as artists in a professional level program and expected to maintain a grade point average comparable to selective enrollment high schools around the city. Talk about tough! When these students come to my office, the first thing I notice is sleep deprivation, followed closely by poor nutrition. It is at this point that I position myself as a coach and not a counselor per se in order to encourage them to care for themselves. Most of my work then is sharing self-care activities like deep breathing, frequent breaks, massages and even weekend trips to recreational parks. Anything that will give them a break and recharge their bodies and mind. Of course the first push back is "My grades will fall!" It is here that I balance the equation and point out if they have a psychotic break their grades will also slip, so which do they prefer? That usually does the trick.
So, for you parents out there who have a child(ren) in this situation, pay close attention to their health and make appropriate adjustments as necessary. And be sure to include a day of REST!