Surviving Back-to-School Stress
I want to first acknowledge and congratulate you on surviving the close of summer, and hope you accumulated enough relaxation and perspective to carry you through for a while. Now, as a parent you must deal with the onset of the fall chaos and the process of beginning anew with a brand-new school year ahead. This transition process is part of the cyclical nature of life’s many seasons as you and your child continue to progress. You must constantly adjust to changes as a parent, and now is no different. When getting your kids ready to go back to school or leave home for college, (no matter what grade) you as the parent and all family members feel the adjustment and are affected. With new and sometimes conflicting schedules and responsibilities, the mood of a home shifts.
Similar to what public relations professionals call an “advertising blitz”, parents and their children face a concentrated “multi-task” blitz in the fall. The go, go, go pace is real and the shift is felt as the mellowness of summer fades away and new pervading obligations take its place. The pace of life quickens as your responsibilities, energy output and stress levels may magnify, too. All that is required of you and individual family needs may create conflict or anxiety, so you need to be prepared as leader of the pack.
SOME SPECIFIC STRESS SURVIVAL SKILLS:
- Remember what it was like for you beginning or returning to school and how you feel as the school year begins.
- Be empathetic with your child. Even if you do not understand their stress, be sensitive to their perceptions.
- Prioritize your responsibilities and goals, creating a general “to do” list to work from.
- Clear out your living and working spaces. Do it in short bursts or all at once. Just do it.
- Factor in time to enjoy physical exercise, stretching or relaxed breathing every day.
- Eliminate needless errands, phone calls, busywork and time wasters.
- Learn to delegate reasonable chores and responsibilities to family members.
- Plan ahead, call ahead, get directions, make arrangements and organize ahead of time (whenever humanly possible). Be flexible and spontaneous the rest of the time.
- Prepare meals in advance, use the freezer, and cook in the morning or the day before.
- Be sure to stay emotionally connected to your child, partner, friends, and yourself. Share dialogue, smiles and hugs, even at crunch times.
- Set limits on over-scheduling. Create space for “down time”, “alone time”, and “family time.”
- Balance back to school stress with lightness and a sense of humor. Keep your perspective as you model that to your child.
- Listen twice as much as you talk to invite your child’s thoughts, worries, and ongoing feelings.
- Brainstorm ways to create positive and realistic expectations, based on personal strengths and an optimistic, calming attitude.
Pay attention to your attitudes and feelings and be an emotionally available sounding board as a conscious parent. You and your student feel the shift in energy and deserve to honor what that brings up for both of you.
Stress can be a two-headed animal. Stressors can cause anxiety or fear as well it can promote positive action. You learn how to tame or escape it as you see it coming. On one hand, stress can motivate, energize and create a sense of urgency, causing a shift of mental and physical gears in one’s life. The immediate shift of focus and urgency can help you to create workable strategies to improve or deal with goals and issues that are in front of you. Productivity is imminent, despite uncomfortable feelings. So, in that sense, it can be positive to have multiple obligations with external deadlines designed to focus on getting the tasks done. You create a system, even if it is a haphazard one, to accomplish what you must do. Stress, on the other hand can also be overwhelming, frightening, exhausting and debilitating to one’s health and relationships, if not managed properly. During this time of the year, it is a good idea to plan things out well, pace yourself and be clear about your intentions before you leap onto the “multi-task rollercoaster” of this transitional big push time. Plan out your goals and priorities, manage your relationships with love and put your stress management strategies at the top of your list!
You somehow get many of the details attended to, seemingly in one long burst. The degree of doing and going, usually without stopping to take a breath, relax and recharge is quite commonplace, especially for parents. There are deadlines, clothing, books and supplies to buy, school forms to fill out, doctor’s appointments, new friends and clothing to sort through. The adjustments to new and busier schedules, more obligatory driving, less sleep or relaxation and a stricter routine are all issues that arise. When you forget to stop, take a breath or take good care of yourself and your loved ones, the process becomes even more taxing. It will take its toll on you eventually, if you aren’t mindful of how to organize it all.
It’s how you manage your schedules, your responsibilities and the care for yourself and your family that matters most. You will probably get everything done; at least accomplish the priorities, at least some of the time. It will benefit you to improve your skills around time, stress and clutter management. Work on good planning, compromise, effective interpersonal communication skills, and how to delegate fairly and creatively in order to improve the whole process for all of you. You will (all) feel better, as a result!
Essentially, we are talking about coping skills; building in more effective and more personally empowering skills to deal with life. Add in the rushed pace of our society and the rapid increase of life’s pressures, personal responsibilities and you have more to cope with. You have both the challenge and the opportunity to drown or excel in your response to stress. You have to consciously choose to take the steps toward a path of time and self-management principles and routines to make this shift possible. Just like any venture, remember to take it one step at a time and do your best. You will make it work for you!
Remember too, that although summer is officially over and you are now in the throes of a fast-paced fall, you have some control over how it goes. You at least, have control over being accountable for how you handle the whirlwind. Your attitude and your focus can help you stay centered. Like Dorothy said,” Everything I always needed was right in my own back yard!” Use your strengths to help guide your path both at home and as you model for your child how to handle the world. Take charge, be alert, work on organizing your life and your time. Take good care of you, your child and your mental health. With the right mix of love, understanding, and tools that work- you will definitely survive…the key is doing it with consciousness.
Contact me for therapy, co-parenting (Inc. post-divorce), speaking, life coaching, “Parenting for Life!” group coaching, and Live Inspired! The Program for Women group @: www.LiveInspiredwithNina.com. Look for my book, “Parenting for Life!” Live Inspired!® Nina~ Like me on Facebook @: Nina Sidell, Inspiring Lives. #parenting #consciousparenting #coparenting #schoolstress #depression #anxiety #copingwithstress