Back to School Stress
“A schedule change from summer to back to school is enough to create feelings of stress and anxiety for some children.”
by Lori Lite
With carefree days of summer coming to an end I couldn’t help but reminisce. In New York we identified back to school time as sweater weather. Finding the perfect sweater to wear to school was priority. Maybe it was a coping strategy or a way to deflect our true feelings of stress and anxiety as we faced the new school year.
The new school year was and is full of unknowns. We were afraid of getting the mean teacher and we all know who that is. We had anxiety over sitting next to the school bully and we all knew who they were. We were coping with stress, fear, and anxiety but we did not know who or what the stressors were. We and our parents did not label stressors or realize that children experience stress.
Identifying stressors and admitting that children are affected by stressful events like change is a shift. Change, whether positive or negative has been rated high as a stressor for children. A schedule change from summer to school is enough to create feeling of stress and anxiety for some children. Couple that with early mornings wake ups, homework demands, and after school activities… and you have a recipe for stress. Intensify that by throwing your own worries into the mix and you have created a pot that is about to boil over. Let’s face it, parents worry about juggling the new schedule, fitting their work in, and what to do if their children get sick. After school activities might mean an increase in bills and you are also concerned about your child sitting next to the school bully. Stress in contagious. Children pick up on their parents stress.
What coping strategies can your family use to stress-less?
Get on a schedule: Children respond positively to routine. Keeping a consistent lights out time will decrease bedtime resistance. Dry erase boards are great for writing the following day’s schedule. Kids love their own boards and feel less anxiety when they are aware of their schedule. Provide a variety of colors and watch your child step into this role of manager. Simply knowing when they have PE and need to wear sneakers is helpful.
Limit your extra curricular activities: Many families allow one sports activity a week. Be sure to pick one that fits your life style. A team that demands 3 practices a week from 7:30 to 8:30 might not be worth the amount of commitment or lack of sleep for your child. Make sure you chose activities that create joy for your child, not stress.
Schedule down time: Have 2 days or 2 hours, where there is nothing scheduled. Use this time to connect with your child. Put your work aside and focus on your child. Take a walk. Step on leaves or crunch acorns as you go. Tell your child about the day you followed a squirrel with your brother’s camera trying to get a funny photo. These moments are relationship building and provide much needed stress relief for adults and children.
Stay organized: Although challenging to most families, I have found that even the simplest organization solutions can save lots of anxiety and chaos. Designate a shoe area; knowing where to find your child’s shoes in the morning can eliminate crying and minutes wasted looking for them. Be creative; one of our best ideas was the day we tied a hair brush to the railing on the steps. We never again spent a morning looking for a hair brush. See what ideas your child has.
Rest and nutrition: A well rested child is less irritable, cranky, and better able to respond to stressful situations in a balanced, calm manner. Nutrition is also important. Sugar, caffeine and food coloring can increase the jitters and should be limited. Good balanced breakfast with protein can help your child start the day calmly. Indigo Dreams: Garden of Wellness CD encourages healthy eating.
Relaxation techniques: It is never too early to introduce your child to relaxation techniques. It is a stress filled world and we need to show our children how to counteract stress. Let them see you taking a few minutes to sit still and concentrate on your breathing. Tell them what you are doing. Children copy what they see and don’t be surprised if even your youngest child climbs up on your lap to experience belly breathing. Say your affirmations out loud and affirm that you are facing the new school year armed with a sweater and the commitment to create a stress-less year. (Indigo Dreams for adults and children each teach belly breathing and affirmations.)