Strategies to Relieve School Time Stress
Back to school time can be both exciting and stressful for children and parents. Returning to a faster pace, the morning rush, homework and after school activities can add additional stress to family life. Here are four helpful strategies you can do to relieve back to school stress in yourself and in your kids:
Let’s face it — over the summer, most families take their cues from the sun and stay up later. While it is tempting to keep the late-night fun going up until the end, starting your school routine a few weeks early can help ease the transition back to school. Starting two to three weeks before the beginning of school, start going to bed and getting up close to when you need to for school, and try to eat on a more regular schedule as well. This advice isn’t just for little kids — teens and adults need quality sleep for optimal brain functioning as well, and getting your schedule straight now will help ensure that you all start the school year off more prepared and don’t feel as much anxiety over the start of school that first day.
Do a Walk-Through
It’s a good idea to visit the school before the first day. For kids who are going to be first-timers for kindergarten, first grade, middle school, or even high school, this can help them feel more comfortable with the new place and get a better idea of where to go once they’re there. With preschoolers and young grade-schoolers, take advantage of playing on the school playground. Even for returning students, it doesn’t hurt to know where the classroom is, say hello to whatever staff is there getting ready, and start getting excited about going back.
Have a Family Meeting
One of the best ways to relieve back to school anxiety and prepare for the coming year is to simply talk to your child about what he or she may be feeling. When the subject of school comes up, let your child tell you what’s exciting about school as well as what may be a little anxiety-provoking. If your child expresses some negativity about school, don’t immediately discount his or her concerns; instead focus on validating feelings. Then you can help find solutions or shift the focus to a more positive one like seeing friends and growing up. Create a “social story” about your child going to school that you and your child can read every day. The story can be a few sentences that describe what your child will do and how he or she might feel. If your child is a visual learner, another option is to take pictures or videos of their school that your child can look at on your phone or iPod.
Tap Away Stress
Imagine your stress level rising, or having a problem nag at you, and then being able to decrease your anxiety and relax just by tapping your fingers lightly on specific areas of the body while thinking positive thoughts. This is called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or “tapping”). This is a surprisingly simple yet very effective technique that both kids and their parents can use to help decrease stress and anxiety. Psychologist Dr. Lynne Namka has written a book about it, Good Bye Ouchies and Grouchies, Hello Happy Feelings, which describes how teachers and parents can use EFT to help children release unhappy feelings.
Following these practical tips can help get the school year off to a healthy, happy start. The main thing to remember in dealing with back to school jitters is to be prepared (mentally, physically and emotionally) as much as possible, and to play up the fun stuff, friends, new supplies, great teachers and growing up. If you show your enthusiasm for what the new school year brings, your kids are sure to pick up on it, and the nervous energy will turn into excitement. Happy back to school!