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Back to School = Back to Margins

Hello, PATH Parents!

Once again, we have blinked, and summer has flown by! As the busyness of school resumes soon, one of the best concepts to remind our teens is that of MARGINS. We typically do not think much of margins, simply expecting them as normal as we read printed materials or online articles, for example. Yet imagine for a moment if materials like books did NOT have margins, if words were taken to the very edges of the pages, top, bottom, left, and right. How would that present? How would that make us feel as we tackled reading dense portions of text?

The reality is, the lack of margins would make reading more stressful. The reader, gripping the pages, would block sections of text, and it would be difficult to focus on words with no framing. Margins bring a needed visual to help the content feel organized and manageable. Margins also allow for some spontaneous interaction with the content, like starring important passages to reference later or even writing down our own thoughts about the content in those blank, white spaces. Margins invite the reader to enter into order, to relax, digest, and reflect.

In life, our teens need margins, too. When their lives are scheduled out to the very edges, completely filled with studying, extracurriculars, and other commitments like part-time jobs and community service, it can feel both overwhelming and exhausting. Without margins, there is no time for reflection, spontaneous joys, or even consistent peace. Most likely, some of the “teenage angst” we parents become so frustrated with is caused by lack of margins, particularly the space needed for sufficient rest and mental reset. Consider the following excerpt from

“According to Johns Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, M.D., M.P.H., teens need 9 to 9½ hours of sleep per night—that’s an hour or so more than they needed at age 10. Why? ‘Teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation,” explains Crocetti. Additional sleep supports their developing brain, as well as physical growth spurts. It also helps protect them from serious consequences like depression or drug use” (Source).

As our teens step back into school this fall, it’s our job as parents to help them create needed margins around their lives. They need space for 9 hours of sleep as well as critical downtime to relax and recover from the constant push to grow and develop those beautiful minds, gifts, and talents of theirs.

Our teens need us as parents to help them create a realistic schedule that is truly manageable (and then to hold them accountable for their time, to make sure that their downtime not only happens but is truly relaxing and not simply more hours a day of stress via social media comparisons, for example). Taking a little time before school starts to sit down with our teen to plan, organize, and restructure as needed, will ultimately bring more success to our teen’s school year and more peace to our home.

Whenever I am explaining healthy life dynamics to my teens, I am always reminded to make sure I am living them myself. As you set your teen up to win this fall, please take some time to consider your own life and margins. Be kind to yourself and create margins that allow you the space to not only get through life, but to enjoy it, too!

In the parenting trenches with you,
Lisa Raftery