Back-to-School: Giving Parents a Lesson in Stress Management

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With the end of summer drawing near comes the realization that a new school year is approaching. Social media memes and television commercials have infused humour into this occurrence showing parents jumping up and down with glee over their children going back to school; the reality however can be quite contradictory. Back­-to-­school can actually result in high stress and feelings of nervousness or anxiety for children and parents alike.

Stressors faced by parents at this time of year include paying for back­-to-school supplies, clothes and possibly tuition. They may also be plagued with worries about children starting a new school, changing school districts, children facing a more rigorous academic year (which means additional assistance with homework and assignments) or simply the unknown (classmates, teachers, social situations).

Here are a few tips to help reduce those stresses and combat those uneasy feelings about the start of a new school year.

  1. Don’t get caught up in the marketing phenomenon that this time of year has become. Despite expectations being set by Pinterest and retailers, children do not need a lunch packed in a bento box requiring an onslaught of kitchen utensils to craft a perfectly shaped and color coordinated school meal.
  2. Don’t equate spending money with parent­child bonding. Retailers and their marketing campaigns have turned back­to­school shopping into a family activity. It’s certainly not a bad thing to shop with children but quality family time does not have to involve hundreds of dollars in spending.
  3. Spread out the spending. Children do not need their entire fall and winter wardrobe on the first day of school, nor do they require every supply under the sun before lesson plans even begin. Space out the purchases accordingly which alleviates both the mental and physical stresses of shopping but the pocket book as well.
  4. Plan ahead for the transition. Schedules are subject to fluctuation in the first weeks of school (some schools may have half­days or off days initially)so plan accordingly in terms of work schedules, commutes and child care (make arrangements with supervisors, build supportive relationships with other parents, coordinate with caregivers).
  5. Ease back into the routine. Rather than quitting summer cold turkey as Labour Day draws to a close, begin getting back into a routine in advance. Practice getting back to study times and sleep schedules.
  6. Acknowledge the stresses and communicate them. Talk about feelings of anxiety and practice patience with one another which helps with reassuring everyone that these are temporary stresses that will pass. Harbouring feelings of anxiety and fear are unhealthy and can be imparted on the people around you.
  7. Keep calm and continue with activities that bring you a sense of calm and relaxation to help you combat stress. Exercise regularly, maintain a sensible diet with plenty of fresh whole foods, and practice mindfulness to keep your stress in check.

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