Sunday, August 11, 2013

Managing Back To School Stress and Anxiety for The Whole Family

     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. Families take vacations, they go out for late night ice cream runs, they go biking, and to the beach-- to name just a few of the many fun summer activities families do together. And 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.

     Becoming aware of situations and events that are likely to increase your and your families’ stress levels will help to reduce stress, actively manage anticipated stress and promote healthy coping behaviors.  Learning to plan ahead in order to better manage stress and anxiety is important since chronic stress contributes to depression, substance abuse, and even physical illness.  Starting your back to school planning early should help with reducing stress and anxiety and ultimately result in  a smoother transition from summer to fall.  

Below are a few tips to help you and your family better cope with back to school stress:

-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.     

-As a family sit down and openly discuss concerns about the up-coming 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.    

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

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

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

-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 “summer time” feelings but feeling connected to those you love can also help relieve stress and add love and laughter to your new year.  

If you feel your family has difficulty communicating throughout the entire year, family therapy may be considered as a treatment option in order to help family members develop positive and healthy communication skills. 

 I want to hear from you. 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?