3 Ways to Manage Back to School Stress

managing school stress

The school year is back in session! And with a new school year comes new stress for parents and kids. 

The transition from summer vacation can be hard, especially for students who struggle in school and their parents. With a new year comes new anxieties: they don’t know their new teacher, they don’t know who is going to be in their classes, they don’t know how hard the work will be, they don’t know the specifics of what will be expected from them, and on and on. All of this apprehension and uncertainty can manifest in extreme stress and dread–they won’t want to go back to school at all.

It can be hard to know how to support your child in this time of stressful transition. School isn’t something they can just opt out of, and sometimes they may take the stress or frustration out on you, because they don’t have the tools to manage their stress.

But there are ways you can support your child in this transition! Below are three ways for you to help your child manage their stress (without ignoring your own!):

  1. Let your child know that you’re there to listen:

What is it about school that is stressing them out? Are they having problems focusing? Is the work harder than they’re used to? Are they struggling in a specific subject? Make sure your child knows that you are a resource they can turn to without fear of shame or judgement. If they can let you know what the problem is you can help them address it, whereas if they’re too afraid to let you know they’re struggling the negative emotions are more likely to build up and bust out in an unhealthy way–and whatever it is they’re struggling with will carry on unaddressed, and it will become a cycle.

  1. Be clear about expectations: 

What are their responsibilities during the school year? Communicate your expectations specifically–including the consequences if they are not met. It is better to frame it as a consequence rather than a punishment–if they don’t finish their homework before dinner they shouldn’t be grounded, but until it is done, maybe no TV. Let them know what you expect of them, and include the fact that if they are struggling or need help you want them to ask. That way they don’t feel like “I have to get all A’s or mom and dad will hate me.” This way they will learn to prioritize, manage their time, and communicate needs when they have them, without a cloud of fear or shame hanging over them.

  1. Establish a routine: 

A lot of stress during the back-to-school transition comes from the drastic schedule change. When before they had days wide open, or just for camp or fun, now they have a big block of their day devoted to school. This means they’ll have to get up earlier, go to bed earlier, and really start to learn how to manage their time. Don’t leave it all up to them–sit down with them and look at their schedule together. Figure out what needs to be prioritized (homework, clubs, sports practice, etc) and make a routine around those things. If they know they have a routine they can rely on then their stress (and yours!) will go down.

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