When most of us hear the phrase “back-to-school,” we think of spiral notebook and pencil sales and lots of nervous (and extremely tired) kids getting back into their school-year schedules. Some people may remember their own anxieties about beginning a new school year or see the signs of anxiety in their children as fall comes along. Either way, for most of us, “back-to-school” time is one of the more stress-inducing times of the year, and as such, it is no surprise that people have been talking about back-to-school anxiety for years.
Now, a lot of people think that anxiety about a new school year is something only students suffer from. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth — especially today, with so much on-campus violence, toxic social media input, and variance in academic performance and expectations between schools and grade levels. All of these factors, coupled with the dramatic shift in daily schedules, can be a recipe for back-to-school anxiety in parents as well.
Back-to-School Anxiety Doesn’t Just Affect Students
While we touched briefly on this point earlier, it is important to underscore that back-to-school anxiety can affect parents just as much as (or in some cases even more than) it affects children going to school.
Parents may worry about:
- the safety of their children in the school — especially in relation to cyberbullying or classroom violence,
- their children’s mental health,
- increased exposure to drugs or alcohol,
- unhealthy social media usage, and
- academic performance of their children.
These are some of the most common concerns parents face as a new year begins, but they are by no means the only concerns that you may face as a parent. More often than not, your worries are formed by your own past experiences, as well as the inputs you are receiving from your environment — such as news reports or personal accounts.
Unfortunately, our children are very good at picking up on what we are feeling. So, if we are feeling constantly nervous or unsettled about the year, our kids will notice, and it may even affect their own opinions and concerns about the year to come. Luckily, as long as you recognize your back-to-school anxieties and worries early and take steps to address them, you can help both yourself and your child put your best foot forward as you go into the new school year.
How to Cope with Back-to-School Anxiety as a Parent
Now that you know some of the areas where back-to-school anxiety is most prevalent for parents, you may be wondering what you can do to ease your worries for the new year.
As with any type of anxiety, coping with your specific concerns may require a unique strategy. However, since many parents face a number of common concerns as the school year begins, we have collected a few of the most helpful coping tips to help you and your child get through this uncertain time as smoothly as possible.
So, without further ado, here are our best tips on how to cope with back-to-school anxiety as a parent.
Highlight the Positives
Optimism and positive thinking are extremely powerful tools — especially when it comes to easing restlessness or concern about something that we cannot fully control. Rather than fixating on the things that could go wrong, try to explore all of the amazing possibilities that could arise.
And remember, even if your child does struggle with something — whether socially or academically — they are loved and supported by you, the rest of their family, and also by teachers and counselors in the school itself.
Prepare for the Schedule Change
Rather than trying to create a dramatic shift in just a couple of days to get ready for the upcoming year, try to integrate changes into your schedule gradually.
This may mean setting (and enforcing) a more strict sleep schedule, carving out time for family meals at regular times (such as breakfast and dinner), setting clothes for the next day out the night before, or making lunches in the morning or the night before to ease into a more natural school-time schedule.
Generally, it is best to focus on just one schedule change at a time and slowly incorporate more habits as you get closer to back-to-school time. So try starting your schedule shifts one to two weeks before that first day back at school to ensure you have enough time to make sustainable changes.
Talk with Your Kid(s)
If you’re having concerns about your child going back to school, chances are they are, too. While you may think that simply pretending to not be worried or putting on a brave face for your child is the best way to keep them worry-free, more often than not, it can have the opposite effect. Encouraging your child to be open with you about what they are worried about can be an excellent way to help them feel more comfortable and confident as they begin school this year.
Keep in mind that you do not want to scare your child into fearing school because of your own concerns. However, it can be incredibly helpful to be open and honest with your child about the worries you are facing, as well as worries you remember having as a child when you were getting ready for your own back-to-school time.
Make Time for Self-care
Self-care can mean a number of things, but as long as it helps you feel relaxed and helps you be present in the moment rather than worrying about all of the things that could happen, you’ve done it right.
No matter what your form of self-care is — whether it is yoga, mindfulness, or even a spa day — make sure that you make it a priority. Carve out time for yourself when you are worried so that you can process your concerns and reduce your stress.
If you are struggling to cope with your anxieties about your child or children going to school this fall, it may be helpful to talk with a therapist or counselor who can help you diagnose the sources of your concerns and help you learn to manage them healthily.
Remember, not everyone will have the same concerns, and solutions that work for someone may not work well for you. This is normal; it doesn’t mean that you are incapable of coping with your anxieties. It simply means that that strategy of coping is not a good fit for you or your family.
So, if you are unable to relieve stress about the new year or you are looking for more personalized guidance on how to cope with your back-to-school anxieties, please do not hesitate to reach out to us today at Love Heal Grow to get in touch with one of our therapists.