7 Tips to Minimize Back-to-School Stress
Heading back to school can be an anxiety-inducing thought for kids of all ages. Between dealing with friendship drama and hours of homework and studying for classes--not to mention the hormones and changes with growing up--the start of the school season can bring stress for both students and parents.
Let this year be different. Instead of frantically running around every morning to get things in order, start developing habits with your kids to make the school year less stressful.
Here are 7 tips to minimize back-to-school stresses:
1. Get Organized
You know the drill: Monday morning your alarm clock doesn’t go off and the kids need to leave for school in 10 minutes. While the kids are throwing on whatever outfits they can find, you’re searching for lunch money and last night’s homework. The unwelcomed adrenaline rush not only starts your day off on the wrong foot, but your kids’ as well.
Avoid the rush and get organized. Have a location designated for the backpacks, preferably close to where homework is completed. Make sure the kids are following the binder organization set up by the teacher, or have them come up with their own strategy. Do a weekly check to make sure everything is in place.
How much your kids can help also depends on the age of your child. Younger kids will need you to set an example for them. Walk them through steps of organization by practicing procedures for homework time and getting everything in the backpack before going off to play. They might need help laying out clothes the night before as well. Older kids can start taking on the responsibilities themselves. After they’ve been taught what to do, they can be in charge of choosing their own outfits and packing their lunch.
When kids know what to expect when they wake up, the ease of routine will follow them throughout their school day.
2. Get Involved
One of the most important things kids can do to cope with school stress is to get involved. Schools typically have plenty of opportunities for student activities, especially as kids get older. Finding an organization that interests your child can give them a safe space at school. They’ll meet people with similar interests and develop personal skills like leadership and teamwork.
Being part of an organization provides a sense of belonging. Walking into a building of strangers isn’t as stressful when you have people you trust. Encourage your kids to sit down and look at the opportunities offered at their school, whether it’s student council, athletics, band, or French club. Think about what interests they have and what their schedule allows, then have them join! It might seem a little scary to them at first, but it’s very much worth it.
3. Use a Planner
Utilizing a paper or cell phone planner can help eliminate stress.
Buy your kids a planner that fits in their binder. Often, a school will even supply planners. Make it a routine to meet once a week and fill in any important information they need: after school meetings, doctor appointments, soccer practices, etc.
Planners help reduce stress associated with schedules and time management, and teach lifelong skills in these areas. Referring to their calendar regularly will help kids prioritize different tasks and always be prepared for class. No more surprise tests or projects will make school more enjoyable than stressful.
4. Develop a Sleep Routine
Getting the right amount of shut-eye every night is crucial to a child’s focus, mood and cognitive development (Scott). A healthy sleep routine is essential to limiting stress.
Set a bed time and create a routine to follow every night, whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, or stretching. Try to limit technology as it gets closer to bed time – it’s harder to sleep after being exposed to the screen’s light. Set the alarm clock to 15 minutes before your child actually needs to wake up, so they feel like they’re getting to hit snooze without the consequences of sleeping in.
Starting the day after a full night’s sleep will fill kids with energy, focus, and a positive attitude to take on the day. Losing the moodiness from lack of sleep will naturally reduce some school stresses.
5. Pack a Healthy Lunch
Eating a nutritious lunch has a lot of the same benefits as a good night’s sleep. It improves focus, keeps you energized, and strengthens your immune system (Scott). Follow the recommended servings for a healthy diet, and pack a lunch consisting of half fruits and veggies, a lean protein and a whole-grain carb. This will keep their bellies full and their minds fresh.
Try to think through meal plans at the beginning of the week and pack lunch at night for an easy morning.
6. Build in Daily Downtime
A day jam-packed with school, homework, chores, and other activities is a recipe for stress. Kids are meant to be kids, but it’s easy to let a crazy schedule overtake that. Make sure that your child’s schedule allows time to relax, hang out with friends, participate in hobbies, etc. Just knowing that there’s free time ahead can help reduce a kid’s stress and motivate them to complete other necessities (DeNoon).
When kids are feeling overwhelmed, sometimes they just need someone to talk to. Routinely ask your kids about their day and their friends, and try to pay attention to any changes in mood or behavior. Teachers will often communicate any behaviors they’re observing in the classroom, too.
Communicating what is stressing them out is the best way to work through the problems and eliminate them (Benson Henry Institute).
Don’t let the pressures of school disrupt all of the joy that can come from this stage of life. Use these 7 tips to help you and your kids have a less stressful school year.
Benson Henry Institute. Managing Back-to-School Stress. n.d.
DeNoon, Daniel J. Your Child and Anxiety: School Stress Starts Early. n.d.
Scott, Elizabeth. Back-to-School Stress Relief Techniques. 15 April 2016.