Skip to Content
August 16, 2022

Back-to-School 2022: Helping Parents Cope with Stress

ThedaCare Pediatrician Discusses Planning Ahead, Making Lists and Practicing Self-Care

As summer vacation ends, parents may find themselves becoming stressed about getting everything ready for their kids to go back to school. Abby Smolcich, MD, a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy, and mother of two, offers advice for coping with stress.  

“Keeping track of all the things that have to be accomplished before kids go back to school can be a challenge,” said Dr. Smolcich. “For me, lists help our family stay organized.” 

She recommends parents create a list for each child and tick off tasks one at a time, and also set aside time for self-care.  

“Filling out forms, buying supplies and clothes, meeting new teachers and figuring out after-school child care are just some of the things that have to be done before the kids go back, and that’s a lot to manage,” Dr. Smolcich acknowledged. “Making a list, planning ahead, sharing the tasks between parents or seeking help from friends, can help reduce the load and the stress.” 

While two-parent families may more easily share the load, Dr. Smolcich suggests single parents seek the help of grandparents, friends or neighbors if possible.  

“If you need to shop for school supplies, instead of always taking kids along, maybe ask a grandparent, friend or neighbor to be with them for a couple of hours so that you can do that task without distraction and accomplish it more quickly,” she suggested.  

She also recommends spreading tasks out over an extended time period.  

“Try not to leave everything for the last week or two,” she said. “Spending 20 to 30 minutes a day accomplishing one or two tasks can be really helpful to keep things manageable.” 

Dr. Smolcich added that kids easily recognize when parents are stressed or frustrated and that can contribute to their back-to-school stress.  

“It can be difficult as parents to give ourselves the grace to take care of ourselves when we’re feeling stressed,” she said. “It’s important for moms and dads to know that it is okay to take time for themselves. I recommend parents take time for self-care, and that can look different for every person. Whatever will help calm you and ease your stress is what you should do. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking—maybe it’s a walk, jog or bike ride by yourself, a relaxing bath, a massage, going fishing for a couple of hours – whatever will allow you to step aside and give yourself the space you need.” 

That time for self-care can often benefit the entire family. 

“When parents practice self-care, our kids will see our stress reduce and that’s modeling good personal care to them,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to know it’s okay to step back and take ‘me time’ when needed.” 

Dr. Smolcich added that one of the best ways to reduce back-to-school stress is to make sure everyone is getting good rest. She highly recommends that families begin following school bed and wake-up times a week or so before school starts.  

“Over the summer, we tend to relax some rules and bedtime is frequently one of them,” she said. “Having everyone get back into school bedtime/wakeup routines ahead of time will definitely make those first days of school less stressful.” 

In the end, all parents are experiencing some back-to-school stress; you’re not alone she noted.  

“Sometimes it’s just the reality of our kids growing up and moving into new phases that can hit us a little suddenly,” she said. “Whatever the stress is, doing the best you can is all we can really expect from ourselves. Nobody is perfect. Take one day at a time and enjoy the new experiences you and your child will be having.” 

About ThedaCare 

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care. 

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.