How to Handle Back-to-School Stress
Back-to-school time evokes various – and often mixed – emotions. Many kids are anxious about losing their summertime freedom, but may also be looking forward to seeing their school friends again … and may even miss the routine of school (as much as they complain about it). If starting at a new school (either due to moving or promotion), children may be overwhelmed by both stress and excited anticipation.
As a parent, you too may be feeling mixed emotions. You may be thankful that your kids will have a regular daily routine again (and any summer childcare will no longer be an issue). You also may be sad to realize that your child is growing up – seemingly too fast. And, with the numerous accounts of bullying in the news, you may worry about the environment in which your child is returning.
Stress at this time of year is normal – for you and your kids. However, you can make your life (and your kids’ lives) easier by taking steps to reduce that stress.
Stressors Your Child Faces Going Back to School
Before you can effectively combat stress, you need to be aware of at least some of the stressors that your child may face heading back to school.
In the online article Social Causes of School Anxiety, author Elizabeth Scott, M.S. addresses the social, academic, scheduling, and environmental factors that contribute to your child’s stress level. These include:
- Social stressors: Friends, peer pressure, bullies (including cyber-bullying), and even teachers can add stress to your child’s day.
- Scheduling issues: You may not realize how busy your kids’ lives are. Extra-curricular activities, homework, part-time jobs, and socializing add up to give your child a full schedule. This can reduce both needed family time and the amount of sleep your child gets.
- Academic factors: Schoolwork that is too hard – or even too easy – can add stress to your kid’s life. Difficult work puts pressure on your child to perform better than he or she may be able. Easy work can lead to boredom and restlessness … and possibly even poor performance. Also the style in which your child’s teachers teach may not match your child’s learning style – causing additional stress. Too much homework and test anxiety can also add to stress levels.
- Your child’s environment: Everything from poor diet and lack of sleep to lack of preparation can have negative effects on your child’s performance and can contribute to stress and anxiety.
Helping Your Kids Beat School-Related Stress
How can you help your kids with back-to-school stress? Although each child is different, there are some things all parents should consider trying, including:
- Resting up: It may seem simple, but make sure your child gets the proper amount of sleep prior to returning to school. The first day of school can cause excitement and anxiety, both of which can affect your child’s sleep patterns.
- Eating right: You don’t have to cut your child off completely from the food he or she loves, but be sure you are not overloading your child on sugar and fats. Also be sure your child gets enough fruits and vegetables and takes a daily supplement. Proper nutrition can improve your kid’s brain function and energy level, which can reduce stress and help them be better able to deal with stress.
- Managing schedule: Help your child avoid schedule overload by limiting the amount of activities your child can add to his or her schedule. Also, be sure these activities are spread out over a period of time so kids are not overbooked on one day.
- Going to open house: If your child is going to attend a new school, be sure that you and your child check it out before the first day. Attend an open house so you can meet your child’s teachers and so your child can meet other kids. Reducing the fear of the unknown can help reduce your child’s stress.
- Setting realistic expectations: Your child does not have to be the smartest or most popular kid in school, but make sure that he or she understands that. Discuss realistic expectations and possibly set up a rewards system that encourages your child to succeed without unnecessary pressure.
Tips for You to Combat Back-to-School Stress
But what about your stress level related to your kids going back to school? You need to take care of yourself, so you can be strong for your child.
Some things you can do to help yourself through this stressful time include:
- Eating well: Don’t start some new fad diet during a stressful time. Your body needs nutrients. Be sure to eat lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Also, enhance your diet with nutritional health supplements and natural stress relievers.
- Getting enough sleep: Your body needs between 6.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can negatively affect you and can add your stress level.
- Setting ground rules/expectations: Have a family meeting to discuss the upcoming school year. Outline what is expected not only of your kids, but also of you. By having expectations on the table, everyone will feel more equipped starting the new school year.
- Creating routines and organizing: You can reduce your stress level by creating routines and organizing your life. By creating a routine and making sure everything is in its place, you will be less harried when the craziness of the new school year begins.
- Pampering yourself: Be sure to carve out some time in your schedule for yourself. Get a massage. Have a manicure or pedicure. Take a yoga class. Watch a sunset. Just make sure you do something you enjoy.
These simple steps can make going back to school a more enjoyable time for you and your kids.