Mental Well-Being

Get a Handle on Back-to-School Stress for Kids and Parents

August 2, 2022

Back-to-school time is full of so many feelings and transitions for both kids and parents. If your little (or big!) ones tend to feel the stress of the season, there are things you can do now to ease their worries. Even if your school district has already officially “gone back,” it will still take some time to get used to the swing of things, so try out some of these tips to iron out the wrinkles. Let’s make fall a great time of year for the whole family!

Routines are queen

Across the board, educators, pediatricians, and therapists agree that establishing a routine can help everyone to thrive during the back-to-school hustle and bustle. Ideally, you will start implementing an earlier bedtime as well as morning and evening routines up to a few weeks before the school bell rings. If your kids are already back in class, however, it is never too late to work with your family to create a schedule that makes everyone feel settled. 

Begin by creating a calm and relaxed atmosphere in the mornings. This may sound out of reach, but through a little extra planning at night, you may be able to drink a whole cup of coffee without microwaving it once. For instance, a nighttime routine may include children packing their own lunches or setting out clothes for the next day. They can also take this time to make sure they have their backpacks ready to go and any forms or homework completed. This way, when you wake up, breakfast won’t feel as rushed since you will have ticked some of the necessary items off your list the night before.

Full means focused

Speaking of breakfast, kids need plenty of healthy, nourishing food each morning before school so they can sustain their focus until lunchtime. In addition, eating a healthy breakfast can help curb feelings of stress or anxiety that can be brought on by low blood sugar. A healthy start means incorporating whole grains, fruits, proteins and maybe even some veggies into your kids’ morning routine. Smoothies, yogurt parfaits, steaming bowls of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, and eggs are just some of the ways to power up your family.

Listening ears

Not only do kids need to bring their “listening ears” to school, but parents should try on a pair, too. The best thing to do for a child who is feeling stressed or anxious is to simply provide a safe space for them to express their feelings. Don’t pressure your children to talk to you but, instead, watch for nonverbal cues and initiate casual conversations that they can then take to a deeper level if they feel safe doing so. If your child indeed does want to talk, maintain gentle eye contact, and give them your full attention so they know that their thoughts and feelings are important. 

Validate your children and seek understanding without judgement. If you have a particularly tough cookie to crack, but you know something may be bothering them at school, offer up a third party such as a therapist or school counselor. Additionally, you can create a worry jar or worry wall at home where they can express themselves through writing short statements on slips of paper or post-it notes for you to see later. 

Know the rules

It is important to be in the know about school rules, classroom regulations, and health precautions being enacted in your child’s school. The more organized you can be, the more settled your child will feel knowing what is going on within their school environment. Even though the pandemic has died down, it is important to understand your school district’s stand on masking, vaccinations, and more.

Have some fun!

Now that school is back in session, it is even more important to connect with your children and family members who you don’t see for much of the day. Make sure to have some fun together in your own way. For some families, this means taking a picnic to the nearest park, while for others a movie night may be the key to fun and relaxation. You may even want to plan a short weekend trip for fall that you can all look forward to during this busy time of year. Connection is a key component in helping children feel regulated and relaxed, so give them your time and you will be getting a lot more back in return. 

School days don’t have to mean stress, but if your kids tend to feel anxious about back-to-school, then help them to feel settled into a routine, listen to their concerns, and then make sure to have some fun together!

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