Managing Back-to-School Stress and Anxiety For the Whole Family

Transitioning from summer to fall is never easy, but Paula Durlofsky offers her tips for coping with the back-to-school blues.

With fall just around the corner, many families begin to experience a growing sense of anxiety over getting back into the busy school routine. The morning rush, the homework, and the myriad of after-school activities quickens our pace of life and is a stark contrast to the quintessential lazy summer days of no schedules or deadlines. Summer is also a time when many families reconnect during vacations, late-night ice cream runs and other activities. Let’s face it: Everyone is more relaxed during the summer. Experiencing feelings of anxiety and even sadness over transitioning from summer to fall is understandable. Families have a lot less time in the day to be together, and along with school and fall comes added responsibility, less flexible schedules for all, and higher stress levels.

Chronic stress contributes to depression, substance abuse, and even physical illness. Becoming aware of situations and events that are likely to increase your family’s stress levels will help to reduce and actively manage anticipated anxiety and promote healthy coping behaviors. Starting your back-to-school planning early will ultimately result in a smoother transition from summer to fall.  

Below are a few tips to help you and your family relieve back to school stress and anxiety:

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1. Start your fall routine at least one week before school starts. It takes time for your body and mind to become acclimated to the early morning school routine.

2. Openly discuss as a family concerns about the upcoming school year. For example, if your child is starting a new school, it may be helpful to tour the school a few times before school actually begins. This is also helpful for returning students.

3. Manage your own anxiety and sadness. Children of all ages and parents may experience pangs of separation anxiety.

4. If possible, review with your child the assignments they will have to complete in the first weeks of the school year.

5. Avoid over-scheduling your child. Ease back into scheduled days. Slowly add activities as the school year progresses.

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6. Seek out family time that helps you remain connected to each other. Try to set aside at least 15 minutes each day per child to enjoy time together. Maintaining a sense of connection is not only be a great way to be able to incorporate some of those positive and good “summertime” feelings, but feeling connected to those you love can also help relieve stress and add love and laughter to your new school year.  

7. Consider family therapy if your family has difficulty communicating throughout the year. Family therapy can help families develop positive and healthy communication skills, which in turn strengthens family relationships and decreases stress and anxiety for all.

How do you manage “back to school” stress? Do you have tips you can share that have worked for you and your family? Are you struggling with the idea of school starting? 
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