What About the Anxiety that Parents (Yes... Parents) Experience During this Back-to-School Chaos?


Why are most articles about back-to-school anxiety focused on the kids? Yeah, yeah, yeah… they’re the ones actually going to school, but that doesn’t make it any easier for parents!!! If anything, it’s worse… we’re the ones who need to deal with the planning, coordination, school supplies, routine changes, filling out forms, bedtime/waking-up, and worst of all, the lunch boxes!

Believe it or not, a study of 1000 parents of school-aged children found that 80% of them reported feeling anxiety related to this time of the year and 47% felt it was more stressful than the holiday season. This, actually, does not surprise me at all as I am a parent and share this sentiment completely. There is so much to think about! What teacher will my child get? Will his/her friends be in the same class? How will I schedule their extra-curricular activities to not overlap? How can I be at 2 places at once for drop-offs/pick-ups? Will there be traffic on my way to pick them up? Will I need to help (*cough cough) them do their projects again? Will other kids be nice to them or will he/she be lonely or bullied? Should I use the carpool or park and pick them up? Will I capture the perfect first day of school picture? And that’s just the beginning of the list of questions racing through many of our minds on a regular basis…

Sometimes, we’re actually more anxious than our kids about going back to school! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ALL bad. There’s definitely a relief to the structure and order that school brings, but that part kicks in later. In the beginning, it’s a LOT of WORK for parents to adjust to the new school year! That said, let’s focus on what we can do to deal with our own anxiety about our kids going back to school.

Sooooo, what can we do to make this transition easier for us?

Next time you find yourself going down the rabbit-hole of anxieties regarding back to school, try these techniques:

1. Make a List

Make a list of things that are stressing you out. When you’re done with your list, write a response for each one that decreases it’s hold over you. For example, for the question “Will I capture the perfect first day of school picture?” you can write, “The picture is meant to capture this moment in time so no matter how it turns out, it’ll be perfect because it’s real.” The other good thing about listing your anxieties is that it helps you gain control over those thoughts.

2. Deal with Your Own Issues

Often, we are anxious or worried for our children because of our own experiences of school. Maybe somebody was mean to us or we felt excluded. The idea of our kids feeling that way is almost worse than our having experienced these emotions personally! This is when we need to take a moment to remind ourselves that They will have their own experiences but projecting our own anxieties and fears onto them serves no good, but will only create anxiety in them, which bring us to #3…

3. Talk About It

Talk to your partner or friend about your worries and fears regarding this time of year. Even if you think you’re hiding you anxieties really well and that your kids have no idea how you’re feeling, you’re wrong. Kids are intuitive and they sense our emotional state. If they sense you’re anxious, that tells them that there’s something to be anxious about, which can cause them to feel anxious. Talking about your own anxieties with a friend or a spouse can be very therapeutic and you may find yourself realizing that it’s all manageable after hearing yourself say it out loud.Never under-estimate the power of connection!

4. Be Proactive

If there are certain issues that you are worried may be a problem for your child this year (social issues, behavior issues, etc), spend some one-on-one time with them and talk about what they can do to choose wisely. Equip them with ideas of how to stand up for themselves, how to express their feelings to their friends, and how to deal with scenarios in the classroom that may get them in trouble. The more they know in advance, the less likely they will make poor choices during those questionable moments.

5. Keep It All in Perspective

Remind yourself that the majority of these worries will have resolved themselves a week into the beginning of school. Acknowledge that this is a stressful time for most parents, but this too shall pass, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a routine that’s manageable.

6. Practice Mindfulness

If you actually pay attention to the number of thoughts running through your mind at any given moment, it wouldn't be such a surprise that your anxiety feels overwhelming. You can combat anxiety by taking some time (even if it's 5 minutes) daily, to practice mindfulness. If you've never practiced mindfulness before, there are some great apps to help you get started. One of my personal favorites is the Insight Timer app. It's a free app with thousands of meditations from experts around the world. Incorporating some time to practice mindfulness daily can help you gain a sense of control over your thoughts and anxiety.

7. Transition to a School Routine Gradually

Use the few days before school starts to gradually bring your kids bedtimes and waking-up times closer to the time they need to sleep and wake when they start school. That way, their natural rhythms (and yours) can slowly adjust to what will be expected during the first week of school and it won’t feel as difficult to tackle that first day!

If these pointers are not enough and you feel that you need to address your anxiety with a professional, call or email me for a phone consultation. We can discuss your needs and find the right therapist for you. We’re all in this together! Let’s make it a GREAT school year!!!