Kevin Cody

Dr. Allen’s advice for relieving back to school stress

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Illustration by Tim Teebken

by Dr. Greg Allen

Many kids and parents experience anxiety over going back to school from the morning rush, the homework, and the quicker pace of life. While this doesn’t mean we don’t like school, the changes ‘back to school’ time brings (new teachers, new classmates, new material) can lead to increased stress. Here’s what young adult novelist Elizabeth Scott and I recommend parents can do for their kids and themselves to relieve back to school stress.

Get enough sleep

Over the summer, most families take their cues from the sun and and stay up late. With the start of school, adjust bedtime schedules and try to have everyone eat on a regular schedule. This advice isn’t just for little kids. Teens and adults need quality sleep for proper functioning, as well.

Be ready

Set aside a specific study area for your child, even for kindergarteners, most of whom have homework these days. Preparing that area can be a shared project. You may also want to get your routines ready ahead of time, such as having your kids lay out their clothes the night before and keeping their shoes by the door so they can find them in the morning.

Talk

One of the best ways to relieve back to school anxiety is simply to talk to your child about what he or she may be feeling. Let your child tell you what’s exciting about school as well as what may be anxiety-provoking. If your child expresses negativity about school, don’t discount his or her concerns. Instead, focus on validating their feelings. Then help find solutions to whatever is challenging to them. It may be another student, a teacher or coach, a subject, peers or even how they feel about themselves.

Seek to understand what the main challenges are. It will be different for each kid and for each school year. Add in some more positive focus, like seeing friends, covering exciting new material, and growing up. These conversation times can also be a time to discuss important topics like how to handle bullies and peer pressure. Letting your child know you’ll be available for support. Open discussions can be a crucial to your relationship, as well as to your child’s success in school.

Balance responsibilities

Managing school is a shared task. While you don’t want to take away responsibility from your child or teen for managing their schedules, your support and guidance can be a positive motivator to your family functioning.

Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT is a therapist with a group practice in Palos Verdes Estates and Hermosa Beach (drgregallen.com). He is the founder and director of Freedom4U, a non-profit organization focused on creative arts, life skills, leadership and service. (freedomcommunity.com). He may be reached at greg@freedomcommunity.com. Pen

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