Handling Back-to-School Stress
This happens every year, just as we feel like we’re finding our groove and settling into a good summer routine – we find ourselves back in September. Suddenly it’s time to switch gears and create a back-to-school routine. Yes, back-to-school is not just about the kids, it’s about the entire family. Back-to-school stress and chaos impacts everyone in the family. Routines are upended with new activities, earlier wake-up and bedtimes, more demands on evening preparation, and just generally a large shift from slow-paced summer to full-on busy school days.
It’s extremely important to recognize that these changes (even small ones) can cause a change in how your kids and everyone else in your family is feeling and coping. Yes, we’re talking about stress. Stress is very real and it impacts all of us – regardless of age. This time of the year, all of us on the AHCC Research team promise each other that we’re going to be better organized and prepared for the changes in routine that come with back-to-school. And yes, some of us do a better job than others at sticking to this promise… we’re not perfect, but we’ve learned a few keys that have helped all of us ease the transition.
One of the best ways to limit back-to-school stress is to determine your family’s priorities. This means sitting down with a calendar or an online tool such as Google Calendar to map out the next few months. Make sure you enter key dates and events first and then take a step back and think about how many other time demands your family can realistically handle. All too often we overschedule ourselves and neglect to honestly recognize how quickly our time disappears.
Remember it might be a one hour soccer practice but you have to make sure the soccer uniform is clean, that there is a snack ready beforehand, drive your kids to soccer practice, and then after practice make sure you’re not too late getting home, eat supper, finish up the homework, get the kids to bed, and then get yourself organized for the next day. This example shows that a one hour activity really adds up to be much more. Remember to take this into consideration when planning your activities and make sure that everyone has time to sit down and relax.
Remember to Unwind
You need time to relax and unwind and so do your kids. Back-to-school, regardless of age or grade brings with it new pressures and expectations. Kids tend to manage these pressures differently – pay attention to how your kids are handling the transition back to the classroom. We’ve found it super useful to always have lots of free time on the weekends. The weekends can easily become overcrowded with activities and errands. Give yourself and kids a break with having free afternoons (or mornings) – enjoy your cup of coffee and linger over your book while your kids are playing and entertaining themselves.
This extra bit of free time and relaxation gives everyone a chance to focus on themselves and to just chill out for a bit. You know what it’s like in the house when your kids are over-tired, stressed, and cranky – by guaranteeing some free time for everyone, hopefully you can alleviate this.
Keep it all in Perspective
All of us want to succeed and do our best. However, it’s important to remember that this drive to succeed should not be overwhelming. The school play, track and field meet, band performance, science fair, etc. are all very important but they are not the be all and end all. While these events are all important, try to make sure that they do not become all-consuming. When this happens, it’s very easy for the importance of these extracurricular activities to shift and with this come heightened stress and anxiety
Admittedly, stress cannot be eliminated and nor should it be. Good stress is important in providing motivation to get projects completed, to achieve milestones, and to strive towards big goals but when it trickles over and the focus on the goal or project comes with too much pressure, this is when we all need to slow down and take a step back.
Talk it Out
If you’re feeling stressed or sense that your kids are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, the most important thing you can do is talk. Talk to your kids about their schedules, what they really want to do and what they can easily pass up, find out if there is anything at school that is bothering them, and remind them that it’s okay to speak up if they’re not feeling content.
Equally important, is that we as adults remember to say no. As much as we’d like to say yes to every single invite, activity, and social engagement – it’s simply not possible. Remember what your priorities are and keep these in mind when trying to decide if you have time to bake 50 cupcakes for the bake sale or have time to take on an extra work project.
It can feel impossible to remember this advice. Even if you adopt one suggestion and focus on this for the first few months of the school year, this is a step forward. There’s a reason there are numerous articles written about managing back-to-school stress – it’s hard for everyone. We want to know how you handle back-to-school stress. Do you have any tips or advice that are working for you?
Let us know on our Facebook page how you’ve learned to manage back-to-school stress or if you have a question about how best to manage this time of the year. Above all else, stay happy. When you’re happy, your kids are happy. When your kids are happy, you’re happy. Everyone will feel and live better.