By: Megan Bearce, LMFT
Pointy new crayons, a special shopping trip, and that big yellow school bus are all symbolic of an exciting time of year: Back to school! For many families though, kids and adults alike, it is time of increased anxiety and worry. Below are a few tips for making the transition from summer fun to learning time less stressful for everyone.
- Bedtime: Sleep is very important for kids and teens and I recommend that parents begin getting their children in bed closer to their school night bedtime starting a week prior. If lights out is 8 pm but they’ve been staying up until 9 pm all summer, make bedtime earlier in 15 min increments every 2 days so that it is a gradual transition from 9 pm to 8 pm. This should help avoid the struggle of getting sleepy kids up and out the door to school.
- Talk about worries: With new teachers, new classmates, new bus drivers all on the horizons, some kids may be worried about all of the changes. Sit down and talk with them about their fears and concerns. The book What To Do When You Worry Too Much recommends setting up a specific time each day where a child and parent sit down for a set time, say 10 minutes, and the child talks and talks about all of their worries. They have to save them up and not focus on them until that designated time and this both helps defuse the worry by talking about it as well as shows they have control over when they worry. Many schools have a “meet the teacher” night a few days before the start of the school year so kids can see their classroom and meet the teacher. I highly recommend attending this as much for the parents as for the kids.
- Scheduling: Parents can be stressed about the return to school also. Having a shared calendar can keep everyone in the loop about activities, drop off and pick up times, and events like teacher conferences.
- Get comfortable asking for help: In my book Super Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart, I talk about the importance of asking for help when one parent is away often for work. The same idea, that it is OK to ask for help, really applies to all families. This could include having a neighbor, babysitter, or friend that you can call if you get stuck in traffic and will be late to the bus stop or a plan in place for when your child is sick, whether that is someone that can stay home with them or a co-worker you trust to help out while you are out of the office.
Taking a little time now to create new habits and strategies can make back to school an exciting, less stressful time for all.
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