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One of the things that I love about this time of year is seeing all of my son’s friends in their back-to-school outfits. All dressed up with somewhere to go, but really not going far. It’s always a bittersweet day for me, though because while I love seeing them looking so cute and excited, I also know what comes next. 

When school starts back up, it becomes that crazy time of year where after a short summer break, we’re suddenly in the thick of sports and activities.  As a working mom for most of my son’s life, I’ve certainly had my fair share of carpooling all over town and trying to get my kid out the door with lunch, homework, and everything else he needs while I’m trying to get myself out there for my own day.  Checking bags and making sure he has everything he needs to survive the day can be a bit of a challenge, especially in the mornings when half the time, I don’t even know where his shoes are.    

How do I stop back to school anxiety?

  • Ease stress and establish routines
  • Stay positive and try to show enthusiasm 
  • Establish fun traditions
  • Get back on schedule (ideally, before the new school year begins!)
  • Avoid over-scheduling the kids and the family
  • Set goals and expectations (but do not plan a “perfect outcome”)
  • Make it special, especially for younger kids in k-5 
  • Stay involved and maintain regular communication with educators 
  • Stay on top of how your child is doing academically, socially, and behaviorally
  • Stay organized, keep a family calendar, and have the kids make sure their bags, supplies, and lunches are out and planned the night before 
  • Establish a homework routine (where and when it will be done)

In addition to buying school supplies, sorting after-school schedules, and packing lunches, parents now face critical decisions about masking, vaccinations, and in-person attendance in yet another school year affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Delta variant, general uncertainty, and school protocols (or lack thereof) have left parents across the U.S. reeling.

“We experienced a lot of grief last year in the loss of the school year in many parts of the country,” said Kendra Adachi, author and mother of three from Greensboro, North Carolina. “We’re scared and crave normalcy. We’re exhausted from trying to help our kids thrive in abnormal environments. It’s a lot.”

Aparna Kumar focuses on mental health issues. Kumar, a mother and an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, urged parents to prepare for school with their children, looking toward the future and setting expectations in a realistic way: “Focus on what is controllable without trying to control everything.”

A child psychologist offered these words of comfort, “I’d like to offer some permission to all the moms to not judge yourself for the stress that you’re feeling.”  Seek help if things feel out of control, and do not feel bad if you’re having an especially difficult time. 

We all feel a little bit of back-to-school anxiety that helps us become better students and forget our summer slothfulness. However, some mothers experience debilitating stress from the thought of sending their children back to the classroom.

Finding the root of your back-to-school anxiety is a great way to combat it. Are you anxious about crowded schools with higher teacher turnover? What about the changes in the class schedule and unstructured summertime that allow for playdates and worry-free parenting? Take some time this Friday before Monday comes around, and remember what’s really making you anxious:

  1. The responsibility of keeping track of the school supplies and lunches.
  2. If they make it through the day without any injury or drama, you deserve a medal.
  3. When will they have time to read the extra-long list of your rules and regulations?
  4. Make sure all of the “extra” stuff is done by Monday night, and your child can enjoy a less stressful weekend.

Now you can create a plan to combat those real stressors, which means a better school year for you and a better school year for them!

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