Going back to school can be an exciting and stressful time for both kids and parents. From packing school lunches to helping with common core math, it can be easy to overlook your own mental health during this time of the year.
Here are some tips to help ease the stress of the back-to-school season:
Plan ahead and stay organized
Starting back-to-school preparations early can help reduce stress and avoid any crazed, last-minute errand runs. Check your school districts website for a list of necessary items. Then craft a list of those items plus additional supplies, clothing items and books you think will be needed. Shop early to avoid the rush and the disappointment of dwindling or unavailable supplies.
"It's so important to stay organized as you're prepping for sending the kids back to school," says with Lauren Weinberg, LCSW, a licensed social worker at the Women's Emotional Wellness Center, part of Main Line Health. "Keep track of important dates and deadlines with a calendar or task list. This will reduce the anxiety of juggling time-sensitive school and work demands."
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Making healthy lifestyle choices can impact and improve mental health. Encouraging yourself and your family to partake in healthy habits — such as a balanced diet, daily physical exercise and sufficient sleep — can help improve well-being and reduce stress levels.
It's also essential to intentionally take short breaks to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Taking a deep breath, meditating, stretching, reading a book and having non-screen time activities that promote relaxation are great ways to encourage the whole family to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Adapt to new schedules and routines
Going back to school means a change to your child's daily routines and a new adaptation for parents to manage.
"Create a schedule for your family, especially for school days, by establishing routines," says Weinberg.
This eases the decision-making process and can help make all activities fit into a daily timeline. It can also provide an anchor for children, which can reduce the feeling of uncertainty.
Remember, you shouldn't expect children to immediately adjust to a new routine overnight. It can take time to adapt, and it's normal for some weeks to be good and for others to be a challenge. Set realistic expectations for your children and yourself, and take the time needed to adjust to the new schedule.
Part of this schedule should allow you to balance your professional life with personal and family time. Setting clear boundaries between work hours and family time improves performance, time management and helps reduce stress for the entire family.
Promote responsible social media usage
Children's exposure to social media is ever-increasing, and there needs to be a balance of responsibility with usage. It's important to create limits for children's use of social media.
"Setting parameters on social media use can help establish healthy habits. Consider setting rules for no phone or device at certain times," says Weinberg. "For example, no technology during dinner to instigate deeper conversation and connection with your family."
Even with the rules you set in play, your children are exposed to all kinds of behavior online. Educate your children on appropriate use of social media and online safety, including what to do if they experience or witness cyberbullying. Explaining what is cyberbullying, the social and mental impact it can have and how to report it.
Homework is one of the biggest stressors to children and parents. Creating designated places and times for homework that are free from distractions can help. Consistent routines and habits create a solid foundation of behavior that can benefit children throughout their academic career.
Having open communication and collaborating with your child's educational provider can make a significant difference, too. Ask for strategies to help children with homework or ways to better engage in the classroom.
It's also essential to display support to your children during homework time. Providing positive feedback, encouragement and being available for potential questions can help children not only feel supported but also adapt to the rigors of academic life.
These practical tips and strategies can help you maintain your own mental health and facilitate a successful back-to-school transition for the whole family.
"Remember, you can lead your children by example, and together you can work to handle the challenges of going back to school and set everyone up for a successful school year," says Weinberg.
Make an appointment with Lauren Weinberg, LCSW
Learn more about behavioral health care at Main Line Health
Tips for helping your children use social media mindfully