It’s the time of year for school buses, backpacks, pencil cases, and new schedules. Returning to school can cause a lot of anxiety for students. But as it turns out, parents are struggling with the stress of this transition as well. Academics, schedule changes, and back-to-school shopping are just the tip of the iceberg of worry for many parents.
“Today’s parents are navigating the fears of cyberbullying, children’s mental health, and school violence,” says social worker Beth Schulaka, LCSW, with Atlantic Behavioral Health. “Coping with this stress and working through this transition is important for the well-being of not just parents, but children, too. Here are a few tips to help parents cope during this transitional time of year.
- Identify Concerns and Take Action
If you tune into specific worries, you can take action to address them. For example, if you fear a busy schedule, make a family calendar and establish transportation partnerships with other parents. If you’re concerned about academics, set up a meeting with teachers early in the semester.
- Practice Daily Self-Care
It’s easy to get lost in the sauce of everyday stress. Take time for mindfulness. Make time in your day to be present by enjoying your cup of coffee, listening to the sounds of nature, or using your senses to simply relax during your morning shower.
- Use and Expand Supports
When you talk with other parents, you’ll find out you’re not alone. Make plans to help each other with the demands of daily schedules. Share your feelings with loved ones and ask for help when you need it.
- Plan Check-Ins with Your Child
Schedule a regular time to communicate with your child. No TV, no screens, no distractions, just time for you to ask questions and get information. Often, the more you know, the less you will worry.
- Scheduled Planned Positives
Make sure to schedule time for fun and relaxation. Having something positive to look forward to can help balance the stress of all the “have-to” activities in our schedules.
These are just a few starter strategies for navigating the back-to-school transition. Parents often prioritize their children, but they also need support and care for themselves. Consider the oxygen mask rule on airplanes – the caregiver must put their oxygen mask on first, and then help their child.
“Reaching out to a therapist to seek professional help can also benefit parents who find themselves struggling through this process,” says Beth. “Back-to-school is a difficult, but exciting time for families. Take care of yourself and your stress, so you can find balance and joy in transitional time.”
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