For students, the transition back to school can be both exciting and stressful. Here are a few tips to help your kids and teens feel prepared for that transition, as well as some thoughts about what is “typical” back to school stress and what might be a sign to seek support from others:
- Plan ahead: Sometimes kids and teens can put off preparing for school starting so that they can enjoy the last few weeks of summer. It is helpful to do some preparation work ahead of time in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed at the start of the new school year. Parents, make sure that your kids get their supplies ahead of time, finish any summer homework and look over their class schedule for the new year. Avoiding things that we are nervous about tends to increase feelings of anxiety, so a little bit of preparation before school starts may mitigate any major stress at the beginning of the school year!
- Take care of their physical health: The body and the brain are connected; so, it is important that students remember to take care of their bodies to help alleviate school stress. Get your kids on a healthy sleep schedule ahead of time, prepare nutritious foods and even encourage them to exercise for thirty minutes a day.
- Talk about it: Our feelings can get bigger if we keep them inside. Talking to your kids about what worries them can benefit you both — help students feel better and allow parents to feel less anxious or provide support when your child needs it. Let them know that you, too, have feelings about school starting, so bonding over these shared feelings could help everyone feel better and more connected as the school year starts!
- Watch for normal and abnormal stress: Increased moodiness, distractibility, parent/child conflict, self-consciousness and change in sleep cycle are all typical responses to growing up and to managing the transition back to school. However, if you notice that your kids and teens are having more intense or long-lasting mood swings, are severely distracted and cannot complete school work, become aggressive with family members, are isolating from others, or are staying up all night to complete school work, this may be a sign that it is time to seek additional support from a school counselor or therapist.