Yep, it’s August. As the lazy days of summer come to an end, parents and school age children across America are beginning to feel the stress of getting back into the school routine. Early wake-up calls, sports physicals, new clothes, new schedules, packing lunches, signing up for events and (avoiding) the dreaded homeroom parent list, or the worry of paying tuition and getting your child off to college can make any parent feel overwhelmed. It’s no easier on kids who worry about making friends, pressure to be a good student, or possibly leaving home for the first time.
“The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD. “While trying to manage work and the household, parents can sometimes overlook their children’s feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins. Working with your children to build resilience and manage their emotions can be beneficial for the psychological health of the whole family.”
A successful start to the school year is possible!
The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following advice on making back to school as stress free as possible:
Eat healthy and get some rest: Younger children do best when they are well-rested, well-fed and prepared for what’s next. Going to bed earlier the week before school starts helps them get into the new routine. Tell your child a little bit about what their day will look like (what time they will wake up, get the bus and when they will be home). Pack a healthy lunch that will help your child stay energized all day.
Plan a school visit: For children of all ages a school visit will help them feel less anxious about where their classroom, cafeteria and playground are located. High school and college freshman in particular worry about logistics. If they can find their locker, walk their schedule, and get familiar with the campus it will go a long way to relieving their first day jitters.
Talk to your child: Asking your children about their fears or worries about going back to school will help them share their burden. Inquire as to what they liked about their previous school or grade and see how those positives can be incorporated into their new experience.
Empathize with your child: Change can be difficult, but also exciting. Let your children know that you are aware of what they’re going through and that you will be there to help them in the process. Nerves are normal, but highlight that not everything that is different is necessarily bad. It is important to encourage your children to face their fears instead of falling into the trap of encouraging avoidance.
Accept that there will be challenges: The new school year may bring about feelings of social isolation or rejection, homesickness and stress about academic success. Resist the temptation to jump in and find solutions for your child. Teaching your child that they can handle things on their own will help them build resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity and stress, and is a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Our staff at Life Insight is here to help the whole family handle the back to school transition and others smoothly, effectively and with the ability to enjoy these new chapters. If you or your adolescent are struggling during this time, give us a call and let us help all of you live a good life!
Life Insight offers psychotherapy, mental health counseling and coaching services for children, adults, and adolescents in Hinsdale and Chicago’s western suburbs.