Feeling the stress of a new school year? Your kids might be stressed, too. Here are back to school tips for parents to ease both and your kids into a new routine.
Back to school can be a time that’s fraught with stress for parents: transitioning to new schedules, arranging daycare or after school care options, juggling new demands on time and budget, and supporting your children in many day-to-day ways from lunch prep and laundry to homework help and teacher meetings. The airlines always say to put your own oxygen mask on first so that you can help your kids. Good advice here, too. If you are anxious and stressed about back-to-school, your kids will pick up on the signals you send.
Of course, your kids may experience stress all on on their own, from change in routine and facing new learning challenges to the social pressures of interacting with other kids.
Here are some tips to help you minimize stress for both yourself and for your kids.
Back to school tips for parents
Don’t shortchange sleep, for you or for your kids. Try to set an established schedule of times for turning in at night and getting up in the morning.
Stick to a budget. Plan in advance for kids’ clothes, school supplies, extracurricular activities and lunches. Develop a simple tracking system, and try to stick with your budget. Debt adds more stress.
Plan in advance. Having a plan and a schedule to follow can help you and your kids fall into a routine and result in fewer surprises. Do whatever preparation you can a month, a week or day in advance, rather than at the last minute.
Focus on healthy eating. Your food intake is tied to your mood. Eat regular meals with plenty of fruit and vegetables; try to avoid processed foods and limit sugar, which can cause mood and hunger spikes.
Get exercise. Plan time to walk, run, bike, play a sport, go to the gym a few times a week. Exercise is a great stress buster. And for an added benefit, involve your kids in your biking or walking sessions so you can spend fun time together talking about your child’s day while getting in some exercises.
Practice relaxation exercises. Try yoga, meditation or reading. Build in a little “you” time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of quiet time when you first wake up, before bed or during lunch.
Back to school tips for For your kids:
Your children’s stress issues may vary based on age and circumstance. For example, young children may face separation anxiety, while older kids face more peer pressure and bullying. Be particularly aware if they are facing a new school or learning challenges.
Sleep: Childhood experts recommend that young children get 10-12 hours sleep a night and teens should get 8-10 hours. Don’t let them take phones or laptops to bed!
Diet: Plan nutritious, appealing lunches and snacks, avoiding sugary options as much as possible. Sugary foods can cause energy peaks and valley and can also increase anxiety.
Plan ahead: Involve your children in planning ahead. For young children, that might be a day in advance, for older kids or teens, that might be planing a week in advance. At a young age, get kids in the habit of planning clothes choices, lunches, homework, schedules and supplies for the next day. Help them to plan for holidays and special school events a week or two in advance.
Communicate: Find the time each day to ask about school, what they did, what they liked, what they didn’t like, if they have any concerns or worries, who their friends are, etc. Meal times are a great opportunity to do this, or as suggested above, during shared walks, biking or other activities.
Support: Assist with homework and help kids think through and learn to resolve their problems. If necessary, seek help from teachers, counselors or doctors to resolve any ongoing problems.
A toolkit of helpful resources for dealing with back-to-school stress
- Kids Health: School & Family Life
- Teens Health: School & Jobs
- Lessen Your Child’s Back-to-School Stress
- Sleeping Well – How to Create Habits that Help You Sleep Better
- Healthy Food for Kids & Teens
- Lifecycle nutrition – age recommendations from pregnancy to senior years, and all age groups in between
- Relaxation techniques
- Stress Relief Guide – Quick Tips for When You’re Short on Time