Relieving Back to School Stress
Dr. Greg Allen, Ph.D., LMFT
Back To School Time? No Sweat!
Many kids and parents are feeling growing anxiety over getting back to school -- the morning rush, the homework, the quicker pace of life. While this doesn’t mean we don’t like school, the advent of the busier lifestyle, along with the new changes that ‘back to school’ time brings (new teachers, new classmates, new material) can all lead to increased stress. Here’s what Elizabeth Scott and I recommend you can do to relieve back to school stress in your kids, and in yourself:
Let’s face it -- over the summer, most families take their cues from the sun and the relaxed days and stay up later. While it may be tempting to keep the late night activity fun going, it won’t feel very good early the next morning when everyone has to get up. Make sure the bed time schedule is adjusted and try to have everyone eat on a more regular schedule as well. This advice isn’t just for little kids -- teens and adults need quality sleep for proper functioning as well, and getting your schedule adjusted in a new way will help ensure that you are all more prepared for the school day.
If you haven’t already, set aside a specific study area for your child. It’s important to be sure that you child has a comfortable, quiet place to study (even for kindergarteners, most of whom have homework these days), and preparing that area can be a shared project. You may also want to get your routines ready ahead of time such as; having your kids lay out their clothes the night before, keeping their shoes by the door and that help you get out the door with less hassle. This can help refine your routine, and make the back to school transition easier.
Talk Amongst Yourselves
One of the best ways to relieve back to school anxiety and manage the new school year is to simply talk to your child about what he or she may be feeling. When the subject of school comes up, let your child tell you what’s exciting about school as well as what may be a little anxiety-provoking. If your child expresses some negativity about school, don’t discount immediately his or her concerns; instead focus on validating feelings. Then you
can help find solutions to whatever is challenging to them. It may be another student, a particular teacher or coach, a subject, peers or even how they feel about themselves. A good goal is for parents to seek to understand what the main challenges are for their kid. Since we’re all individuals, it will be different for each kid and each school year or semester. It’s good to sometimes add in some more positive focus like seeing friends, covering exciting new material, and growing up. These conversation times can also be an excellent time to discuss important topics like how to handle bullies, peer pressure, and other important topics. This can help your child feel more comfortable, and can help you clarify expectations and troubleshoot. Creating open lines of communication is always important, and letting your child know that you’ll be available for support and open discussions can be a crucial part of your relationship, as well as your child or teens success in school.
Managing the new school is a shared task. While you don’t want to take responsibility from your child or teen in terms of managing the daily and weekly schedule, your support and guidance can be a positive motivator to your family functioning.
Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT is a therapist with a group practice in Palos Verdes Estates (drgregallen.com). He is the founder and Director of Freedom4U, a non-profit organization focused on creative arts, life skills, leadership and service. (freedomcommunity.com). He may be reached at