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Posted on 08/19/2021

How to Manage Back-to-School Stress

How to Manage Back-to-School Stress

Going back to school can create a lot of stress and anxiety for both you and your child. In general, this stress can be reduced by getting adequately prepared, empathizing with fears, and perceiving going back to school in a positive light. Read on to learn how you and your child can minimize stress as a new school year approaches.


1. Returning Amid the Pandemic

This back-to-school year is unlike any other for your children. The unpredictability and fears that are associated with the pandemic can be another source of stress and anxiety for families while preparing to return back to in-person learning. There are a few things to consider and practice so that mental and physical health can be maintained during these times.

It is a good idea to equip your children with the necessary knowledge and materials to keep them safe as they learn to properly return back to school. Consider spending time educating your children on social distancing and sanitary practices (frequent hand washing, wiping down areas to be used), and pack your children extra masks and sanitizers. Parents can encourage masking by creating lanyards or chains for their children that hold their masks and allow for quick and easy use, as well as prevention of losing them. Additionally, find ways to make it fun. Make an arts and crafts project out of the masks by having your children decorate their masks, this will make them want to wear their mask and show it off!

Remember that this may be a lot for your children to comprehend and a challenging period for them to navigate through, especially since it adds to the fears and anxiety they felt about returning back to school even during normal times. Remind them that all is well and they can enjoy school as they always have, just with some caution and new practices to keep themselves and those around them safe. Also, encourage them to speak about their experiences at school during these times so that you can best help them in any challenges they may be facing, or praise them for their efforts and accomplishments.


2. Get Prepared

As with most areas in life, the most common forms of back-to-school anxiety can usually be eliminated when you feel prepared. After all, stress and anxiety emerge from fears of the consequences of failure, and preparation creates the perception that avoiding those consequences is within a person's control.

Just doing back-to-school shopping can usually eliminate most fears by making you and your child feel confident that you are ready for the school year ahead. Make a thorough list before heading out to the store, and organize all of your school supplies in one place when you get home.

On the days leading up to school, you can do additional preparations to get more prepared. For instance, you can lay out the clothes your child will wear and pack a school lunch. Preparing will get your child ready for success, and this will help to significantly reduce stress.


3. Do Your Research

If you are sending your child to a new school for the first time, make sure you have thoroughly researched the school so that you know exactly what to expect. Consider getting a tour, and read everything you can about the school online. Knowing what to expect from your school can boost your confidence, and this confidence will naturally rub off on your child.

Additionally, it can be a good idea to talk to other parents who send their kids to the same school. Most parents choose schools that are nearby, so you can easily meet parents who have experience with your school. Getting insights from other parents who have gone through the same challenges gives you the chance to ask questions about the issues that are keeping you and your child from feeling at ease.


4. Make Your Child's Fears Feel Validated

When children are afraid, they need a parent who they can count on to support them. Back-to-school anxiety can be significantly reduced when your children feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns. Generally, almost all back-to-school fears that a child has can be easily put to rest by a grown adult. After all, parents experienced the same challenges when they were young.

If your children come to you saying they are afraid, be as empathetic as possible. It is especially important to be empathetic if your children are afraid of being away from you. A child not wanting to separate from you is perfectly normal and healthy. Make sure your child knows you felt the same way as a kid, but you were glad you went to school in retrospect.


5. Make Children Look Forward to School

One of the main reasons why kids feel nervous about the school year ahead is because going back to school is often framed as something negative. Children are free to play all summer long, but they are made to feel like the fun stops when school comes. In other cases, parents present the school year ahead in an excessively serious manner, so children are made to feel nervous about the high risk of not meeting expectations that this serious attitude mistakenly implies.

Instead, try to make your child feel excited about the next school year and confident in their ability to perform well. Focus on the positive aspects of going to school, such as spending time with friends and learning about topics that interest your child. Remind your child about the achievements and good times they had at school last year. Additionally, point out exciting news that you heard about your school to build excitement. When children are eager to go to school, their anxiety will naturally transform into enthusiasm.


6. Practice Spending Time Away From Your Children

Spending time with your children is very healthy and feels great. Some parents also like how spending time with their children enables them to teach their children good values that they can only learn from their parents. Nevertheless, you have to be willing to let some aspects of your child's development take place independently to avoid the emergence of codependence and social anxiety.

Therefore, parents should give their children a few chances to practice separation during the summer. When children become used to being dropped off at an event or summer camp, they will start to lose their fears of being away from their parents.


7. Talk to Other Families Going Through Similar Challenges

Every family experiences the same stress when school approaches. As a result, it makes sense to spend time with other families that are also getting ready to send their kids to school. Parents experiencing the same fears can discuss possible solutions together and recognize that their fears are valid and normal.

Simply having someone in your life who is going through the same issues can make challenges a lot easier to get through by giving you someone to confide in. Likewise, children can get similar benefits when they are given the chance to talk to other children who are nervous about going to school.

Consider letting your children visit their neighborhood friends so that they can discuss the upcoming school year. When you pick up your child, you can then talk to your neighbor's parents about your adult concerns about going back to school.


8. Consider Talking to a Therapist

In some cases, parents and their children can feel a strong sense of anxiety when school approaches. Sometimes, it can make sense to talk to a therapist about the fears you or your child are experiencing. Therapists often have clients who have experienced similar issues, and they can tell you how they were able to alleviate their stress. In extreme cases, you could also potentially benefit from taking prescription medications. Therefore, talking to a therapist can be a good option if your back-to-school stress does not go away.


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