Communication, planning, the key to managing stress as school year starts
The beginning of the school year can be a hectic time for all family members, not just the students.
“Going from lazy summer days to homework, grades, carpool and after-school activities can take its toll on everyone at home,” said Cecilia Marshall, Ph.D., licensed psychologist with CareNet Counseling, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“The key to reducing school-related stress is strategic communication and planning.”
Marshall shares the following tips about how parents can keep the entire family on an even keel right from the start of school:
Listen: What words are being used when family members talk about school? Do you hear your children using words like “dread” (as in getting up in the morning), “boring” (as in “school is so boring”) or “worried” (that my grades will be bad, or I’ll get in trouble again)?
Focus on the positive: Reassure your children that most students feel uneasy about going back to school.
Concentrate on the enjoyable aspects of school such as seeing old friends and making new ones.
If finding a positive topic is challenging, try a neutral or “off the wall” question (“What color dress/shirt do you think your teacher will wear tomorrow?”).
Don’t wait until a problem arises: Meet your children’s teachers as soon as possible to let them know what your children need to perform their best. Make sure that your children also know what they need to do to succeed.
Look outside the classroom: If a child says that he or she is having trouble making friends, check out community- or faith-based activities that may help your youngster meet peers in a structured setting.
Be realistic about the morning routine: Know how long it will take to get everyone up and going in the morning, and then add a few minutes for the inevitable misplaced shoes, missing homework, etc.
Plan ahead for the evenings: In many homes, the early evening is the time when everyone’s needs tend to collide: parents need a few minutes of down time, children need attention immediately and everyone wants dinner.
It’s beneficial to talk things over so everyone’s needs are considered.
“To be honest, these stressors don’t stop after the first few days of school,” Marshall said. “So these tips can help throughout the school year and beyond.”