Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a student, or just someone who now has to deal with back-to-school traffic, this time of year can bring on a whole load of stress. It’s a transition to get back into the school routine, plus the additions of homework, bedtimes, and social anxieties. If you’re a parent, a lot of this falls on your shoulders. Here are a few tips for staying calm while dealing with all the back-to-school stress that September brings.
Stress can be hard to identify, especially in children since they don’t always know how to verbally express it. Parents should look for anxiety symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, difficulty sleeping, and a changes in behavior. The first step to helping your child is acknowledging there is a problem. If you’re an adult dealing with back-to-school stress, it’s also important that you identify and address your own stress as well. As the leader of the family during this transitional time, if you’re not functioning then no one else is either.
As parents, it’s extremely easy to dismiss signs of stress in our children as laziness or disobedience. It helps to ask children the reason why they’re complaining about not wanting to go to school, or struggling with their work. There might be a root issue that is causing them this stress and anxiety. Are they having a problem with their teacher? Getting bullied? Do they have too much on their plate? It’s best to tackle these issues on early on in the school year if possible. Kids might not always be able to tell us exactly what’s wrong, but listen to what they do say and try to help.
Bedtime can be a struggle for some families. It’s important though, as kids need more sleep than a lot of people realizes. Children up to the 3rd grade require up to 12 hours per night! Even high schoolers still need 8-10 hours of sleep. Address factors that may be limiting sleep time, like a demanding schedule, using technology at night, or any feelings of stress. Making sure your kids get enough sleep will be the best way you can help them function their best at school.
Structure is a great thing, and not just for kids. Knowing what the plans are for the week helps the whole family, from kids to parents, function better. Think about meals, laundry, activities, and free time. Juggling schedules can be the most stressful part of back to school season, but it can be managed. Find a scheduling system that works for you, whether that’s a calendar or a whiteboard. Planning ahead can benefit everyone.
A big thing kids don’t realize is that homework is just as annoying for parents and teachers as it is for students. Many schools are now reducing or even getting rid of homework altogether. But if you’re not one of those lucky parents, making sure your kids get their homework done can be really stressful. Help them when needed, but don’t do the work for them just because it’s faster. Make rules and stick to them, such as no snacks or technology until after homework is done.
Over-scheduling kids can be just as bad as providing no structure. Having free time is beneficial to both students and parents. It allows them the freedom to express themselves. Make time for unstructured playtime, downtime before bed, and family time. Psychiatrists say free time is important for de-stressing and developing an identity.
If you are finding the back-to-school stress unmanageable, or have any more questions, feel free to contact us and set up an appointment to discuss anxiety and stress management options.